CIOT: Poor HMRC service ‘hammers away’ at trust

CIOT: Poor HMRC service ‘hammers away’ at trust

The Chartered Institute of Taxation has issued damning comments on HMRC's ongoing challenges with service levels

CIOT: Poor HMRC service ‘hammers away’ at trust

UK ministers must give HMRC the resources it needs to improve service levels or risk eroding public trust in the tax system, according to Gary Ashford, president at the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT).

Giving his inaugural speech as CIOT president on Tuesday 30th May, Ashford, a former HMRC employee, argued that “tax authorities must provide a framework that makes it as easy as possible for taxpayers to be compliant”.

“That doesn’t feel the case right now,” he added.

Poor service levels ‘a pain’

Ashford went on to emphasise the diminishing quality and worsening impact of HMRC service levels – a topic of great contention in recent months.

A damning report published by the Public Accounts Committee in January highlighted the “unacceptable level of service that taxpayers and agents are currently suffering”, and criticised HMRC for not deploying the resources required to maximise the tax revenue it collects.

The following month, ICAEW CEO Michael Izza called for the creation of a cross-sector taskforce to address the tax authority’s delays, arguing that representatives from professional bodies should be “empowered” to advise HMRC.

Echoing these concerns, Ashford argued in his speech that such a dip in service levels “harms cashflow and threatens business viability”.

“Poor service levels at HMRC are not just a pain for taxpayers and advisers, they harm tax compliance, hinder business activity and hammer away at trust in the tax system. A strong economy needs an effective tax system.”

HMRC ‘putting the cart before the horse’

Ashford also commented on HMRC’s move to downsize its customer service workforce from 25,500 to 19,500 in the past five years due to its push towards digitalisation. This was an act of undue haste, he said.

“I’m a true believer in the power and potential of technology, but cutting staff numbers now in anticipation of efficiencies from digitalisation which have not yet arrived, seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse,”

Ashford went on to urge ministers to “resource HMRC properly for the job it has to do” and emphasised the role of CIOT and other professional bodies in helping the tax authority work towards this.

The Institute must act as a “candid friend” to HMRC, he said, adding that this entails being “sometimes critical but always constructive”.

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