The report, published by HMRC, includes a section from the Charter Stakeholder Group, includes the findings of a survey carried out by the group in February of this year on whether tax agents and taxpayers believe HMRC are meeting their Charter standards.
The survey received more than 900 responses, with complaints about service levels a recurring theme. It found that:
- “Being responsive” scored the lowest of the Charter standards, with an average score of just 2.3 out of 10,
- “Making things easy” and “getting things right” also scored poorly, at 2.7 and 3.4 respectively,
- The remaining standards – “being aware of your personal situation”, “treating you fairly”, “recognising that someone can represent you”, “mutual respect” and “keeping your data secure” – address the context in which HMRC operates, and scored higher at 4.1, 4.8, 5.1, 5.4 and 6.5 respectively.
The survey also showed that almost a quarter of respondents are not aware of the existence of the Charter, rising to nearly half among taxpayers alone, with more than 85 per cent of respondents also believing there is a lack of accountability for HMRC’s poor performance.
In their report within the Charter Report, the Independent Adjudicator also expressed the view that they cannot see that senior leaders at HMRC have a consistent objective to place the Charter at the heart of their operational and strategic decision-making.
Richard Wild, who reresents the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) on the Charter Stakeholder Group, said: "Sadly, the survey reflects what we are hearing from our own members, about the everyday time wasted by the challenges they face in interacting with HMRC. Similarly, we have raised with HMRC where the behaviour of compliance staff is not meeting Charter standards, most notably recently in their high volume compliance approach to R&D tax credits.
“The common theme throughout the comments was frustration with the cost of HMRC inefficiencies to taxpayers, agents and HMRC itself. Agents also indicated a low level of confidence in HMRC’s operatives.
“The accuracy of guidance and information provided by HMRC continues to raise significant concerns, while many respondents felt getting a response and action via correspondence or telephone can be extremely difficult and time consuming, even for simple issues.
“Criticism was mostly aimed at HMRC as an organisation and its apparent acceptance of poor service performance. These perceptions are unlikely to improve unless HMRC, at the highest level, fully embeds the Charter into its thinking.
“The responses highlighted two key themes around HMRC accountability. Firstly, whether there is sufficient internal accountability within HMRC with the performance of HMRC staff being adequately managed. Secondly, the lack of external accountability for HMRC against the Charter.”
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