An ICAEW poll shows that, despite HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) saying they are committed to improving customer service, 55 per cent of its members do not trust HMRC to "get it right first time", with most feeling that HMRC's service standards have dropped.
Over half of those surveyed said they felt that HMRC was unable to deal with their complex queries over the phone, with the report showing that the “increasingly complicated and constantly changing tax system” was impacting HMRC's ability to improve service standards.
Whilst HMRC has recruited more people to deal with the large number of enquiries, long waits on the telephone remain a concern, with The National Audit Office June 2016 estimates showing that this could be costing small businesses around £97m a year.
Frank Haskew, ICAEW’s head of tax faculty, said: "The results of the survey are disappointing, especially when HMRC’s own statistics over the past year show a different picture of a steadily improving performance for the general public.
"Getting through to the right person quickly to resolve queries and “getting it right first time” remain problem areas with our members.
"We know that HMRC is working to address these issues and that they have been meeting their own targets for improvements, but we think that, for example, HMRC’s target for clearing 80 per cent of post within 15 working days should be more ambitious."
Mr Haskew said that, whilst HMRC may have made some improvements in recent months, there is more work to be done, especially as the UK moves to a digital tax system.
"Our survey confirms that without professional help three quarters of their clients will have problems meeting the requirements for making tax digital. It is vital that when digital services are rolled out to taxpayers, they are also rolled out to tax agents at the same time, so that the agent can see exactly what the taxpayer can see. HMRC now needs to work closely with the profession and support the valuable role that tax agents play in making the tax system work," Mr Haskew said.
With just a few days left to complete your tax return, Anita Monteith, tax expert at the ICAEW, warns: "Putting off your tax return until the last minute can lead to mistakes, and you may have to a pay a fine if HMRC deems you have not taken enough care completing it."
The deadline of 31 January 2017 for sending 2015-16 Self Assessment tax returns to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is fast approaching, so contact us for assistance and to ensure you remain compliant. We are also available to discuss ways to make your tax return easier next year, by taking the hassle of dealing with HMRC away from you, so you don’t need to contact them directly.