If anything sums up the lack of grip at HMRC, this is it…

First published on 20 March 2024 by Alastair
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News yesterday that HMRC was going to close its phone lines for six months over the summer, as part of its plan to get everyone online (MTD – hum, that has gone smoothly), was swiftly succeeded today by the announcement that the government has told them to stop this madness immediately.  One can easily envisage a frustrated Chancellor getting on the phone to the top brass at HMRC and telling them to get a grip…

The chart below, using HMRC’s own data, shows how far standards of customer care – as measured by the rise in wait times - have fallen.

At M&S Accountancy and Taxation we experience (suffer would be a better word) this kind of issue on an almost-daily basis. In January, which, let’s not forget, is the busiest month of the year for the tax authority, HMRC managed to not answer nearly one million calls. For those who were fortunate enough to get through, it took 25 minutes on average. The sclerosis this causes to businesses the length and breadth of the UK, who could usefully use this wasted time to make money, is alarmingly evident.  

It’s not HMRC that gets fined if assessment tax returns are made late, but in making it so much harder for accountants and individuals to get through they are (although I’m sure they’ll deny it), actually increasing their revenue due to their own inefficiency.  Perhaps it’s time that HMRC was penalised rather than tax-payers, when the fault can be clearly shown to lie with the tax authority’s inability to handle the volume of calls rather than with the tax-payers’ inability to actually get to speak to someone in time to allow them to file their returns before the deadline?

Callum McKinnon, M&S Accountancy & Taxation

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