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‘Someone needs to move HMRC forward’: Advisers react to Lin Homer departure

LIN HOMER, the outgoing chief executive of HMRC who suffered stinging criticism from MPs over multiple failings at the UK tax authority, has been unfairly criticised, according to a senior figure in tax profession.

Homer yesterday said she would step down as boss of HM Revenue & Customs in April following a 36-year public sector career. Under her leadership, HMRC has been criticised for its poor record of customer service and its “disappointing progress” on tackling tax evasion.

According to Stephen Herring, head of taxation at the Institute of Directors, Homer has been “unfairly criticised for a number of HMRC issues created by policy changes demanded by politicians who ought to be simplifying the tax system, not making taxpayers and HMRC’s lives harder”.

Anton Colella, chief executive of ICAS, also praised Homer’s efforts in creating more of a technological approach for collecting tax.

“Lin Homer inherited a most challenging position at HMRC and is to be congratulated for her work to modernise the service, and to raise awareness among the population and business of the duty to contribute to tax. I admire her courage for taking on this role,” Colella said.

Nevertheless, Homer has suffered a barrage of criticism – often at the hands of former PAC chair Margaret Hodge – during her four years in charge of the UK tax office. Elaine Clark, managing director of cheapaccounting.co.uk and a regular critic of Homer is delighted that the former UK Borders Agency boss is stepping down from HMRC.

Clark now wishes to see someone from outside the public sector taking over the HMRC hot seat.

Technology experience 

The tax authority has confirmed that it’s already conducting a search for Homer’s replacement, although Clark makes clear that HMRC “has to get the right person to move them forward”, and believes that there will already be a lift in the mood at HMRC due to Homer’s resignation.

She is adamant that Homer’s replacement must be experienced with technological matters, especially as HMRC is attempting to become “one of the most digitally-advanced tax authorities in the world” through the roll-out of its online tax account initiative.

The new system – which will eventually replace annual tax returns and will be adopted by millions of individuals and businesses – is one part of a radical overhaul that will see the taxman slash hundreds of jobs and plough £1.3bn into digitally transforming the way it administers tax.

In December, Clark made her feelings known to Accountancy Age about Homer’s plans to take tax digital, stating that HMRC will “struggle to deliver this as an IT project and they will encounter a lot of cynicism from accountants such as me that have seen HMRC’s numerous failures at trying to deliver any system on time.”

David Brookes, tax partner at BDO, says that the new leader’s priority should be “in continuing HMRC’s digital transformation to help tackle customer service issues, which have been under scrutiny in recent years, and improve its ability in dealing with complex tax issues swiftly.”

Brookes is right to flag-up customer service as an important task for Homers successor, with Clark revealing that the majority of her clients wait up to 40 minutes before speaking with a member of staff, despite HMRC boasting an average waiting time of six minutes in December 2015.

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