90% of ICAEW members feel HMRC services have stagnated

19th January 2016 | News

Nine-in-ten (90 per cent) members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) believe service standards of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have either remained the same or deteriorated, according to new research.

Almost half (48 per cent) of ICAEW members admitted they had experienced no noticeable change in the tax authority’s performance, while 43 per cent stated they believed service levels had actually gone backwards; up from 34 per cent in 2014.

This is a trend that the ICAEW labelled “worrying”, despite HMRC taking on an additional 3,000 call centre staff. Only one-in-five members trust HMRC to “get it right first time”, compared to three-in-five that do not.

Almost three-fifths (57 per cent) of ICAEW members say the time spent dealing with the tax authority went up from 47 per cent last year, while 40 per cent believe that the monetary cost of HMRC dealings had also increased in the last 12 months.

The key areas for HMRC improvement were cited as call waiting times (37 per cent) and improved staff knowledge (35 per cent).

Frank Haskew, head of ICAEW’s tax faculty, said: “The ability to get through to the right person quickly to resolve queries remains a problem.

“More needs to be done to improve call and post handling efficiency and ensure that HMRC gets it right first time.

“In particular, there is often a need to speak to someone with detailed knowledge of the tax system rather than being directed to less experienced staff.”

An HMRC spokesman confirmed the tax authority is keen to work ever closer with tax agents to ensure an effective tax system.

“Man of the issues raised with us by accountants over the phone require careful analysis in relation to the law before we can give a substantial answer,” he said.

“We aim to give accurate answers as quickly as we can, but we want to get it right and that can sometimes take longer than we would like.

“Following the last report we set up a working group to address the issues raised and since then we have announced the digital transformation of the tax system giving individuals and agents more direct access to the tax system.

“We are committed to ensuring tax agents are fully engaged with the implementation of new digital services and expect agents to remain central to the effective working of the tax system.

“We will be working closely with tax agents to address the issues raised in this year’s report.”