I REMEMBER attending a lecture in the Big Smoke a few years back by John Whiting on the subject of tax simplification.
Since then it is fair to say that every Budget has suggested ideas to simplify the tax system. While this is great from a taxpayer's point of view, it's not so great from an adviser's point of view. How simple does it have to be before clients decide to do the tax returns themselves?
If I had my way I would change the way HMRC works totally, from being ‘tax collectors' to ‘tax generators'. Every week in the papers we read about the huge uncollected tax bills, as well as the low morale and resources within HMRC offices.
Couple this with the low opinion that the majority of people have towards HMRC and I think it's fair to suggest it's time for a change of plan.
Drive business forward
My idea is to make HMRC into a crack team of business advisers, assisting small business owners and helping them to improve profits and therefore pay more tax. I've already seen small examples of this recently with the HMRC Business Advice emails sent out every so often. We all know, however, that most clients won't read them, and those that are signed up to receive them tend to forward them straight to us.
If HMRC were more closely linked with small businesses in local areas the relationships would be better and the likelihood of owners not paying the tax would reduce. HMRC is a service that we all pay for through our taxes but presently I would like to bet that not one person feels that they get any value from it. Let's have a local team of advisers out and about among businesses getting to know how they operate, what issues they have, and offering advice to help them improve.
When it comes to time to pay tax if we have ‘bought into the service' they have offered during the year we are less likely to bemoan the tax bill.
Who currently wants to work for HMRC at the coalface?
I don't hear of many graduates, entrepreneurs, or ex-accountants banging down the door to get in.
The size and scale of the organisation as it stands could make it one of the most envied in the world. It just needs a change of direction and making into one that offers value and delivers a valuable service.
The Practitioner's uncensored thoughts come from within their own practice - having left a regional firm in the heart of England
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