MORE THAN 90% of ICAEW members think HMRC’s service standards have either remained the same or deteriorated, according to research from the institute.
Around 48% of members said they had noticed no change in the tax authority’s performance, while a further 43% said service levels had worsened. The number that thought services had deteriorated increased from 34% in 2014 – a trend the ICAEW branded “worrying” despite HMRC recruiting a further 3,000 call centre staff. Only one in five trust HMRC to “get it right first time” compared to three out of five that do not.
More than half – 57% – say the amount of time spent dealing with HMRC has increased, up from 47% last year, and 40% thought that the monetary cost has increased in the past year. The most pressing areas for improvement cited were improvements in call waiting times (37%) and better staff knowledge (35%).
More positively, the services provided by the agent dedicated line and agent account managers scored well and these services should be developed further.
Frank Haskew, head of ICAEW Tax Faculty, said: “The ability to get through to the right person quickly to resolve queries remains a problem. More needs to be done to improve call and post handling efficiency and ensure that HMRC gets it right first time. In particular, there is often a need to speak to someone with detailed knowledge of the tax system rather than being directed to less experienced staff.”
An HMRC spokesman said: “Many of the issues raised with us by accountants over the phone require careful analysis in relation to the law before we can give a substantial answer. We aim to give accurate answers as quickly as we can, but we want to get it right and that can sometimes take longer than we would like.
“Following the last report we set up a working group to address the issues raised and since then we have announced the digital transformation of the tax system giving individuals and agents more direct access to the tax system. We are committed to ensuring tax agents are fully engaged with the implementation of new digital services and expect agents to remain central to the effective working of the tax system. We will be working closely with tax agents to address the issues raised in this year’s report.”