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ICAEW urges HMRC to address poor service levels


Published: 11 May 2021 Update History

ICAEW members are reporting that poor performance is being experienced across almost all HMRC services and ICAEW has been pressing for greater transparency about the problems being experienced and for a clear recovery plan. The Tax Faculty outlines the problems that have been raised and the action it has taken.

Over the past 12 months ICAEW members have reported numerous service issues and delays across a range of HMRC services.

The main concern of members in practice is the withdrawal of priority access from the agent dedicated line (ADL). There are long wait times and reduced hours on other helplines and significant delays in processing registrations and repayment claims. ICAEW members have reported call waiting times of 40 mins to an hour on HMRC’s helplines and calls being cut off.

Other examples quoted by ICAEW members include taxpayers still waiting up to three months for Unique Taxpayer References (UTRs) to be issued for self assessment registrations, five months for VAT registrations to be completed, up to six months for research and development relief claims to be processed and more than six months for carry back of corporation tax losses to be actioned.

Alongside these processing delays, there are ongoing administrative issues relating to the new Capital Gains Tax reporting system, erroneous tax codes being issued and delays to the processing of 2019/20 self assessment tax returns and agent authorisations (64-8s).

The current service levels not only increase the burdens and costs for taxpayers and HMRC but, as the UK moves out of the pandemic, could damage the recovery due to inhibiting new businesses from starting up and stifling the growth of existing businesses.

Throughout the pandemic, ICAEW has acknowledged the pressure on HMRC’s resources and its considerable achievements in delivering COVID-19 related support. HMRC acknowledges the poor service performance and attributes it to having had to reallocate staff to work on the COVID-19 support schemes and an unexpectedly high level of staff absence due to the pandemic, as well as EU exit work.

ICAEW appreciates the problems that HMRC has faced over the past year and stands ready to give what support it can to HMRC to bring forward a clear recovery plan. ICAEW has called for the restoration of priority access to the agent dedicated line for many months and representatives have attended two meetings specifically arranged to discuss this issue.

ICAEW has also pressed for an improvement to service standards at the bi-monthly meetings of the Representative Bodies Steering Group (RBSG) where Tax Faculty representatives have raised the problems encountered by members. Specific issues have also been raised directly with the relevant HMRC team and through the Issues Overview Group and the faculty has made the case for greater transparency by HMRC, with more information about delays and problems in the system being made publicly available.

ICAEW calls upon HMRC to publish a clear recovery plan and encourages HMRC to work more closely with the professional bodies to improve service levels so as to restore them to a sustainable level as soon as possible.

The Tax Faculty encourages all members to report service issues on the HMRC online agent forum as that supports ICAEW when escalating the issues with HMRC.

More information on HMRC service issues:

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