The latest HMRC agent research shows that accountants and tax agents are still experiencing problems with HMRC’s agent helpline. Some 43% “expressed dissatisfaction” (as in a footballer expressing dissatisfaction with a referee’s decision?) with the length of time they were kept waiting on the telephone helpline. In 2019, this figure was ‘only’ 39%, so HMRC has, in practice, been getting worse.
Similarly, although 54% of agents agreed that HMRC is effective, only 27% agreed they are efficient (i.e. they get things done, just slowly and inefficiently!). That figure of 27% is, once more, a deterioration, compared to the 22% who ranked HMRC efficient in 2019.
To be fair, HMRC has, like all of us, had to deal with the pandemic over this period. Moreover, they did a pretty good job of getting the furlough and other schemes up and running. That, however, came at a cost, to wit £8,000,000 of tax-payers’ money. This was spent on home-working equipment (not Peletons we hope!) in the 2020-21 financial year. With 65,000 employees, it was always going to cost a lot of money to keep the tax system running, so it’s perhaps unfair to criticise too much. HMRC does get quite a lot right, as reflected in the 82% of small businesses who dealt with HMRC over the previous 12 months and rated their overall experience as positive: this was an increase from 75% in 2019. Overall confidence in HMRC among small businesses also increased, to 71%, up from 61% in 2019.
Interestingly, nearly one in 10 (89%) of small businesses feel that tax evasion is never acceptable. This would imply that more than 10% do! Worryingly, one in three (32%) think tax evasion is widespread.
Finally, it’s also interesting to note that as HMRC increases its investment in digital services, there is still a low level of awareness of the extension to Making Tax Digital to cover income tax reporting for sole traders and landlords. Currently, just over half (53%) of small businesses say they are aware of the future reporting requirements. This highlighs the need to ramp up the communications programme. Remember, M&S is one of the few genuine tax specialists in Fife, so if you are in any doubt about MTD, or any other aspect of the tax requirements for your business, please do get in touch.
Vivian Linstrom, M&S Accountancy & Taxation