What New Year's resolutions should HMRC make for 2012? Here are a few ideas to improve the taxman's (and our) day to day lives.
This is the time of year when we look at what we would like to change in the New Year and start to formulate our New Year Resolutions. Here are some resolutions I would like to suggest for HM Revenue & Customs:
1. We will deal with post on a more timely basis and stop using the "too hard to do" filing tray
It isn't unusual to wait more than two months for a response to a letter and for the response to simply say "a reply will be sent in the next 28 days". The response will generally only refer to the date of the latest chasing letter and not the date of the original so the delay does not appear to be too long. If the letter is dealing with something slightly out of the ordinary, the response time is even longer as the letter obviously finds its way into the "too hard to do" filing tray, and this is emptied infrequently, if ever. All post is now sent to one central mailing address and then distributed to the appropriate office. This seems to be another delaying tactic.
2. We will beef up our computer systems and software so that we can deal with correspondence via email
While encouraging/enforcing more and more dealings between themselves and the agent/taxpayer to be electronic, it still isn't possible to routinely email HMRC as their systems are not up to it. In this day and age, much communication between businesses and individuals is by email but this medium is not available with HMRC. If it were available perhaps processes could be sped up.
3. We will endeavour to transfer calls to the caseworker and where that is not possible the caseworker will call back the same day
Telephone calls are to a call centre and it isn't possible to be transferred to the caseworker. A message will be sent to the caseworker asking them to call back. The only problem is the message can't be sent there and then – it's sent overnight and the only promise is that you will get a call back within 48 hours or sometimes 72 hours. That call frequently lasts just 30 seconds and is to advise you that a call to deal with the query will be made in the next seven or 14 days.
4. We will remember that the taxpayers are our customers and treat them as such so as not to lose their business
Unfortunately it is not generally an option for the taxpayer or agent to take their business elsewhere, but if the level of customer service provided by HMRC was replicated in a free market they would lose a significant proportion of their customers!
What New Year's resolutions would you like to see HMRC take? Leave your ideas for the taxman below.
Sue Moore is an associate director at Baker Tilly.