Revenue tax targets slated, reports Damian Wild.

The Inland Revenue faced accusations of failing taxpayers this week, after it lowered performance standards for tax offices that missed their targets for calculating tax correctly this year – to make them easier to achieve over the next 12 months.

Five regional tax offices failed to meet their 1997/1998 targets for calculating tax correctly for schedule E taxpayers. While the six tax offices that did achieve their 1997/1998 targets had their targets raised or held, IR East, IR North-West, IR North, and IR Scotland will have lower targets next year. The target for IR South Yorkshire, the fifth office to fall short last year, was retained.

A national target of 87% was kept, despite this year’s figure of manually handled, correctly processed cases being 86%.

John Whiting, Price Waterhouse’s head of personal taxation, said the lowering of targets in many cases was from an already low base – they will vary between 85% and 90% across the country next year – and was a worrying sign. ‘It’s not very ambitious,’ he said. ‘It means at least one in ten ordinary people will have their tax calculated incorrectly.’

The best performer was IR South-East, which calculated tax correctly ‘in every respect’ for schedule E taxpayers in 90% of cases.

A spokesman for the Inland Revenue said the national target for calculating tax correctly had been maintained despite changes at local levels. ‘We’re not complacent,’ he said.

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