The Public Accounts Committee published its 36th Report of this Session which examined HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC's) customer service performance.
According to the report published yesterday, HMRC left 20 million calls unanswered last year and managed to reply to only 66% of letters within 15 days. At the same time HMRC also announced the closure of 281 walk-in enquiry centres, which is likely to result in more people needing to contact HMRC by phone or letter.
The report calls HMRC’s efforts ‘woefully inadequate and unambitious.‘ However, a HMRC spokesperson pointed to a number of recent 'improvements'. Sadly these have not been borne our HMRC experience of late. In fact, we can advise of spectacularly consistent poor customer service - particularly regarding the processing of 2011/12 UK tax returns.
HMRC seem to be less than forthcoming in issuing perfectly legitimate tax refunds generated as a consequence of the submitted tax returns. We are dealing with many cases, some ongoing for several months, where HMRC seems to be employing delay tactics, withholding significant amounts due to taxpayers, running into the thousands, without good reason or cause. This is obviously very frustrating for anyone waiting on a tax refund.
We think it’s highly unfair as each one of those refunds belongs to a real person, not just a number, who may be banking on their money back to pay a debt, bill, make some home improvements or in the case of one of our clients, close up the affairs of a deceased loved-one. What’s even more infuriating is that it is then nigh-on impossible to get through to anyone at HMRC to have a sensible discussion with about the case, as the committee report concedes.
We understand that HMRC workers are overworked and under appreciated, however, we the taxpayers are expected to pay our taxes over in a timely fashion, so it is not too much to ask that HMRC pay out refunds as soon as possible? The endless information 'checks' that we must endure are unacceptable. We understand that they have to be done for security and risk purposes, however, they should be done quickly, not take months.
Several formal letters of complaint will be leaving our offices this week in the hope that HMRC can work on putting things right for the specific cases we are dealing with. Sadly, we fear this will not be the last government hearing into their overall practices, effectiveness and customer service performance. You can read the full report here.
If you have any UK tax queries, don’t hesitate to contact our UK tax team.