THOSE HMRC CUTS – KILL OR CURE?

News of further reorganisation at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has brought forth a wave of lamentation from the tax advisory industry. But there is one dissenting voice that has bravely taken an alternative view.

First, this reaction from FRANK HASKEW, Head of the Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales SAICAEW Tax Faculty:

“This restructuring will place yet more pressure on an organisation that is not delivering the level of service taxpayers have a right to expect. Service standards are deteriorating with taxpayers having to spend longer and longer on the phone trying to get through or waiting for their letters to be answered.

“The UK tax system is already struggling to cope with the demands being placed on it. Our tax code is overly complex and places a significant regulatory and compliance burden particularly on small businesses whose focus should be on contributing to economic growth.”

And then this response from MARTIN BELL, tax partner with BDO LLP:

“While any job losses are regrettable, this change reflects the ever increasing use of technology by HMRC in response to the digital revolution and is a natural consequence of the proposed demise of the traditional tax return.

“HMRC has already invested significant sums in technology with the likes of the tax investigation Connect software but this is a much more fundamental change. There have always been question marks over HMRC’s implementation of new IT systems but it is clear that employing large numbers of staff to pore over written documentation is a thing of the past.

“Whether taxpayers feel HMRC can afford to lose more staff at a time when there are huge delays in answering calls and responding to basic requests for help is another matter.”

Our sympathies are with Martin Bell on this point.

Why are we spending billions of pounds on state-of-the-art IT equipment and computerisation at HMRC while still treating its payroll as sacrosanct?

Either HMRC gets a grip on its internal re-organisation, ensuring a properly equipped front line service for taxpayer queries or it reappraises the effectiveness of its huge IT spending.

Either way, the Treasury, which agrees so obsequiously to every demand from the HMRC for more powers, needs to ask more searching questions as to its IT spending and management.

They work for us, supposedly.

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