The Practitioner: Taxing times with HMRC

The Practitioner

You hear rumours of HMRC staff being disillusioned and unhappy with being target driven, and recently I am beginning to think the rumours are true.

One of our larger clients is currently under investigation for VAT, having just come out of a PAYE inspection. If I didn’t know how disjointed HMRC are, I’d have said that the PAYE department has had words with the VAT team and told them to take a look.

I’ve also been told from reliable sources that junior staff at HMRC are being thrown in at the deep end and are being asked to learn in six months things that experienced staff have taken years to learn.

If the so-called VAT specialist who is currently working on my clients’ affairs is anything to go by, the rumours are very true!

He seems very young, and has been carrying out the investigation since July last year without getting anywhere, it seems. He spent less than half a day out on site at the start of the inspection, and now prefers to correspond by email, asking for large amounts of information to be scanned. Given the fact that HMRC have a 10GB email size limit, this is proving difficult.

The clients’ business is somewhat complex to be fair, but we do appear to be teaching the VAT person how to do his job.

Just as the inspection appeared to be fizzling out to a close, the client has submitted a large VAT refund on the latest return. I was hoping it would fall on the desk of a random VAT officer and be dealt with efficiently and in the normal way. However, it landed on the desk of the person dealing with the ongoing inspection and has just caused greater confusion.

He now wants to come out again to inspect the clients’ premises, and as each day passes I fear the chances of the client actually getting the refund paid into his bank account are diminishing.

Worst case scenario is that the VAT man finds something he had previously missed and prolongs the investigation.

If only the client had chosen to pay for fee protection insurance last year…

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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