HMRC’s poor performance – questions need to be answered

21 June 2022

In an open letter submitted to HMRC last week, The Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and the Association of Taxation Technicians, have come together to raise their concerns regarding the prolonged service level difficulties HMRC is experiencing. They have requested updates on the various improvements HMRC advised the Public Accounts Committee it would carry out.

Taxpayers and agents regularly experience prolonged delays in receiving tax repayments, responses to queries and when registering for self-assessment. There are long wait times for telephone enquiries and it is far from uncommon to be cut off when finally getting through to HMRC.

Often where a reasonable request is refused and described as ‘impossible’, a second call which goes to a different staff member gets immediate and helpful cooperation. We suspect this is due to poor training, rather than a lack of willingness to help the taxpayer.

These delays and contradictions cost time and money. For unrepresented taxpayers there is a clear risk they will accept the first denial of help or fail to pursue delayed claims. Many taxpayers may believe this must be the proper treatment and give up, meaning they could be taxed incorrectly.

The sudden disappearance of the HMRC performance statistics, together with the long-acknowledged problems with HMRC’s service is concerning. HMRC has an impact on everyone in the UK, from gathering their tax to helping fund essential services. It needs to be made fit for purpose again as a matter of urgency.

We appreciate HMRC has been under immense pressure for the past years, dealing with extra work due to Brexit and Covid relief payment responsibilities, as well as the issues of lockdown, but these ‘temporary’ problems seem to be shielding a permanent breakdown in service. In addition, the mysterious lack of recent service level updates does not reassure professionals or the public that the situation is under control.