Advisers shun HMRC advice

The number of tax advisers contacting the taxman for help has slumped during
the past year, as HM Revenue & Customs is failing to provide adequate
information to the profession, new figures show.

Only 85% of advisers contacted HMRC over the past 12 months, compared to 95%
a year earlier.

Just 64% of those got help the first time they made contact, according to
HMRC’s latest customer service survey.

The profession said the figures were another stark warning to the government
that driving efficiencies in the department had reduced the quality of advice
and the ease of making contact.

‘The feedback we get is that going through HMRC contact centres won’t get you
the correct result,’ said Derek Allen, director of tax at ICAS. ‘There’s a great
deal of concern on service delivery.’

Richard Mannion, national tax director at Smith & Williamson, said: ‘We
do everything we can to avoid contacting HMRC. They offer haphazard quality and
it’s usually answers from a script. The whole relationship has changed.’

The advisers said they suspected the profession was only contacting the
taxman for simple queries.

‘I think they’re asking “can you confirm this, that, or the other”, because
otherwise you won’t get a sensible reply,’ Mannion added.

Advisers’ overall satisfaction with HMRC’s service delivery was static. Over
half (51%) said they were fairly satisfied while 17% were very satisfied, the
lowest figures of the 11 business groups surveyed.

The perception of HMRC among individuals and businesses was ‘encouraging’,
the report stated.

Areas of improvement for business services included the effectiveness of its
communication, taking all customer needs into account and not just focusing on
VAT customers.

It should also make it easier for small VAT traders and CIS businesses to get
help over the phone.

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