TaxAdministrationMerger should put customer first

Merger should put customer first

Politicians will keep an eagle eye on the merger of the country's tax departments, after industry representatives voiced concerns over the effects it could have on customer service.

Three of the most respected names in the industry were grilled by MPs earlier this month over the effects that the merger would have on taxpayers.

For once, these representatives of the major tax bodies were all singing from the same song sheet.

‘This is not a quick fix – it is a long-term project,’ said John Whiting, spokesman for CIOT and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. ‘The gains are worth the pain, but one of the dangers in going for a very quick lashing together is that one would lose customer service.’

John McFall, MP for Dumbarton and member of the Treasury sub-committee, said that the committee should be ‘keeping an eye on this merger over regular periods’.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of tax at the ACCA, agreed and said someone must act as a ‘watchdog’ for the project.

All three representatives agreed that the department must take a more business-friendly approach which would have to ‘come from the top’. According to Whiting, the tax system is highly complex, and the small taxpayer needs to be helped rather than penalised,’ said Roy-Chowdhury.

Mark Lee, chairman of the ICAEW Tax Faculty, said: ‘The professional bodies working with the Inland Revenue have made enormous strides. David Heathcoat-Amory, Tory MP for Wells and a chartered accountant, expressed his surprise with the bodies’ views that the department should be there to help business. ‘Surely it’s there to raise money?’ he said.

Whiting complained that it was ‘taken as read’ that the 25 taxes are all paid by the same taxpayers. ‘They are all feathers coming out of the same goose,’ he said. ‘Can we please make sure the plucking is done as efficiently as possible, with at least some thought for the goose?’

HM REVENUE & CUSTOMS

  • Chief executive David Varney
  • Deputy CEO Paul Gray
  • Starting dates 1 September
  • 10,500 jobs across the two departments will be lost – 3,000 as a direct result of the merger
  • Will lead approximately 90,000 staff across the country
  • New chief information officer to be appointed to take charge of the merging of the IT systems
  • Cap Gemini and Fujitsu will look after systems, as EDS was ousted earlier this year
  • Full board for the new department has yet to be put in place.

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