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The Practitioner: Why does HMRC persist in making us look bad?

BY SENDING OUT wrong demands and incorrect penalty notices they not only upset clients unnecessarily but what are they wasting in terms of paper and postage costs?

All the years I have been in accountancy, looking after clients, my heart still sinks  when I sense from their tone that they think we’ve done something wrong.

More often than not they have received something from HMRC that indicates we haven’t been doing our job properly. It couldn’t be further from the truth, and since opening our doors we are client-penalty-free – both from HMRC and Companies House.

While I’m thinking about it, Companies House is just as guilty as HMRC for spooking clients. In the past month alone I’ve had phone calls from distressed clients who have received an ‘Urgent Reminder to File Annual Return.’ It is printed in red ink and makes clients believe that they, or we, have overlooked something.

These so-called ‘urgent reminders’ are being sent out despite the fact that there are normally a couple of weeks to go until the actual filing deadline.

No matter how good we are at reassuring clients that everything is in hand they must have a little doubt in the back of their minds that there is no smoke without fire.

Another tax scare

A client of mine has recently been on the end of another unnecessary HMRC scare. A collector from the tax office phoned the client advising them he had 48 hours to pay a rather large PAYE liability. After receiving the news from a rather upset client I contacted HMRC directly only to find they had fabricated a CIS return submission figure and misallocated a payment.

I’m not being unfair when I say the lady who dealt with my query couldn’t have sounded any less disinterested if she tried. At the end of the call she said something along the lines of ‘OK, not sure what’s happened there but I’ll take your word for it and put a permanent hold on any future chase for the amount.’

In this case I was happy that they were willing to ‘write-off’ an amount that had only occurred because of their error, but how many genuine outstanding liabilities are being put on ‘permanent hold’ because the person on the end of the phone can’t be bothered to look into it?

Yet more waste…

The Practitioner’s uncensored thoughts come from within their own practice – having left a regional firm in the heart of England

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