ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

ICAEW urges Chancellor to improve HMRC service levels

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 01 Mar 2023

Severe delays, business disruption and frustration prompt the UK’s accountancy bodies to demand that HMRC service levels are treated as “a top priority for the upcoming Budget”.

The heads of 10 leading accountancy bodies have signed an open letter urging the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, to prioritise investment in HMRC’s service levels in his upcoming Budget statement on 15 March 2023.

The move follows a warning by the Public Accounts Committee that £42bn in taxes remain uncollected at a time when HMRC customer service staff numbers have been cut by 24% in the past five years.

In the letter, senior representatives from the bodies – ICAEW, ACCA, AAT, CIOT, ATT, ICAS, ICB, CIMA, CIPP and STEP – argue that the delays and business disruption faced by their members has become “a regular occurrence when dealing with HMRC”, with some businesses waiting upwards of six months for repayment and relief claims.

Between them, the professional bodies behind the letter represent hundreds of thousands of professional accountants and tax advisers working across the UK, from small and micro businesses to multinational organisations.

The letter says: “Our members are increasingly facing severe delays, business disruption and frustration when dealing with HMRC, which is having significant ramifications for taxpayers, business owners and their agents. If the government wants to meet its economic objectives and boost productivity, it must invest in improving customer service and effectiveness at HMRC. We urge the Chancellor to treat this as a top priority in his upcoming Budget.

“In your Autumn Statement you rightly said that ‘a strong economy depends on strong public services’. This is nowhere more evident than in the services provided by HMRC, but despite its critical role in funding the public sector, customer service levels delivered by HMRC have fallen to an unacceptably low level.” 

ICAEW Chief Executive Michael Izza believes the current level of customer service at HMRC is unacceptable and has urged ministers to take immediate short-term action to solve these issues and ease the pressure on taxpayers.

“Some of our members are waiting for up to a year for written responses to technical queries, and this is not good enough. I am pleased to join with colleagues from across the accountancy sector to call on the Chancellor to prioritise investment in HMRC service levels in the Budget,” he says.

HMRC still failing to meet targets

Office performance data from HMRC showed customer service standards for dealing with phone calls and correspondence are still not being met. At the same time, there has been a worrying further increase in HMRC’s debt balance.

The quarterly performance update for October to December 2022 showed that the proportion of customer correspondence turned around within 15 working days is 71% (from April to December 2022), below the 80% service standard. Only 75% of customers who wanted to speak to an adviser were able to do so, significantly below the 85% service standard.

Meanwhile, the average waiting time reported is 14:51 minutes, almost three times the five-minute service standard, and helpline opening times have not yet reverted to those that operated pre-pandemic. It also revealed that the percentage of taxpayers waiting more than 10 minutes continues to exceed 60%, against a target of 15%.

ICAEW’s Tax Faculty is joining with other professional bodies to gather feedback on HMRC’s performance against standards in the HMRC Charter. Members are encouraged to complete a survey by 3 March 2023.

Members who would like to feedback to HMRC are encouraged to complete the survey Have your say: HMRC’s performance against Charter standards | ICAEW.

Discover more from ICAEW Insights

Insights showcases news, opinion, analysis, interviews and features on the profession with a focus on the key issues affecting accountancy and the world of business.

Podcast icon
Insights Podcast

Hear a panel of guests dissect the latest headlines and provide expert analysis on the top stories from across the world of business, finance and accountancy.

Find out more
Daily summaries
Three yellow pins planted into a surface in a row
News in brief

Read ICAEW's daily summary of accountancy news from across the mainstream media and broader financing sector.

See more
A megaphone
Stay up to date

You can receive email update from ICAEW insights either daily, weekly or monthly, subscribe to whichever works for you.

Sign up