HMRC assessed in new ‘administrative burdens’ report

The Administrative Burdens Advisory Board (ABAB) has analysed HMRC’s levels of service as well as expressing concerns about the Making Tax Digital process in its latest annual report.

Established in 2006, ABAB is an independent board that brings together the knowledge and expertise of business professionals from a range of different backgrounds. Its stated aim is to ‘make a noticeable difference for small business by supporting HM Revenue and Customs to help make tax easier, quicker and simpler’.

The Board’s third annual report recognised that HMRC had taken steps to improve its service in several key areas but expressed concern that service levels, particularly those related to communication by telephone, continued to be poor.

They noted that a large proportion of the feedback received via their ‘Tell ABAB’ online facility for small businesses was related to HMRC’s channels of communication, including their manning of phone lines.

This mirrored previous findings by other groups. The Public Accounts Committee said that at the start of 2015, HMRC was answering just 50% of the calls it received from members of the public. This was a drop from the 74% of calls answered in 2011-2012.

A poll by business recovery professionals association R3, meanwhile, found that 45% of the members polled said they waited longer than 15 minutes the last time they called HMRC before being answered, cut off or hanging up. A quarter of respondents had waited for half an hour or more.

Some 54% of insolvency practitioners surveyed said that, by ignoring letters and failing to answer calls, HMRC makes it harder to rescue businesses than to wind them up. This could also make it more difficult to make HMRC time to pay arrangements for businesses that were in arrears.

The ABAB report welcomed the development of digital products by HMRC and tailored assistance aimed at improving the experience of small businesses regarding dealing with their tax obligations. They said they were disappointed however with the decision to mandate digital record keeping and quarterly reporting for even the smallest businesses.

By Phil Smith

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