By the end of this parliamentary term, HMRC’s “digital transformation” will have made it quicker and easier for customers to report and pay taxes online, the Budget 2016 stated. To facilitate that, the government is investing £71m to improve services – which will be done through three specific ways.
Firstly, a new seven-day service will come into force in 2017, with extended hours and Sunday opening on online services and the tax and tax credits phone lines. This will, it stated, mean people and businesses have more of an opportunity to get through to HMRC outside of working hours.
To compliment that, an additional 800 new staff will be recruited to HMRC call centres to reduce waiting times. A dedicated phone line and online forum for new businesses and self-employed people is being created – with the intention of supporting the filling out and paying of taxes for the first time.
Read more about the Budget 2016:
At the beginning of 2015, HMRC was roundly mocked on for suggesting tweeting might be a quicker way to get queries dealt with. This was off the back of figures showing that one-third of calls were not pick dup and the average wait time was some 11 minutes – up from five minutes in 2013.
Separate research carried out by Citizens Advice in September 2015 shed light on the fact that HMRC had been the subject of 11,500 negative tweets during the last year. The body had a much larger figure for an average waiting time, at 47 minutes.
Speaking then, Citizens Advice CEO Gillian Guy commented: “People are paying the price for not getting through to HMRC. From fines for not completing a tax return in time to under or overpayments for tax credits, people can be left out of pocket because they cannot speak to HMRC on the phone.”
Natalie Langley, tax director at PwC said, said: “Small businesses continually tell us that simplicity and clarity in the tax system would make a huge difference.
“The Business Tax Roadmap is a step in the right direction through dedicated HMRC phone lines, online forums and targeted support to high growth businesses. It will be even more interesting to see how the government responds over the coming months to the report by the Office of Tax Simplification on small business taxation which contains some more radical ideas.”
In a further move to simplify tax rules, it was announced the government will increase the VAT registration threshold in line with inflation to £83,000 from 1 April 2016. This will save around 2,000 small businesses from having to register for VAT by the end of the 2016-17 financial year.
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