Poll suggests HMRC needs to do more to help struggling businesses

The majority of insolvency practitioners say they are hampered, rather than helped by HMRC, when it comes to developing business rescue strategies, new research claims.

According to a poll of 350 members by the association of business recovery professionals, R3, more than half (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.

R3 reported that 71% of respondents found HMRC had made the whole insolvency process more difficult over the past few years. Only 10% of those questioned said they found HMRC ‘helpful’ when it came to business rescue.

Failing to respond to letters and phone calls was flagged up as a major issue. R3 said that a third of the estimated 480,000 letters and forms sent to HMRC by the 350 respondents each year were duplicates of lost or ignored mail, or copies of letters that have to be sent to multiple HMRC addresses. This represents 160,000 excess items each year, which equates to a large amount of time and resources being essentially wasted.

Around half (45%) of the members polled by R3 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 43% of respondents also reported having had requests for information from HMRC – to which they were entitled as office holders – rejected. Half of those polled said HMRC was one of the creditors they least looked forward to working with when dealing with winding up petitions and other insolvency and recovery processes.

More than half (54%) of insolvency practitioners reported waiting for more than three months for clearance from HMRC to close their last case. A quarter were forced to wait between six months and a year.

R3 is calling on the Government to improve its own performance as a creditor which, it said, could help to promote a business rescue culture.

By Phil Smith

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