Is it just us, or do we find ourselves very much in a time of uncertainty? There’s been a lot going on over the past couple of years, putting many things into a state of flux. But, if you're talking about HMRC customer service it could be argued it's a constant.
The Brexit result took a bit of digesting – regardless of which way you voted. But since that day, the term ‘Brexit’ has often been followed very quickly by the word ‘uncertainty’.
Then there’s the general political situation, both at home and abroad. There is now increased pressure, focus and scrutiny being placed on those in power. This uncertainty, it seems, may be starting to filter down.
Good customer service?
Contractors as a rule tend to keep half an eye on the work of HMRC at all times. Concerns are now being raised about the department’s ability to deliver good customer service moving forwards.
Concerns about HMRC customer service were first raised by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). These have now been repeated by the Association of Taxation Technicians.
“We share the PAC’s concerns about the additional pressures facing HMRC and the risk that this may negatively impact on taxpayers’ dealings with them,” said Yvette Nunn, Co-chair of ATT’s Technical Steering Group. “We believe that the situation will only become more challenging for the tax authority and taxpayers alike, with the upcoming introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD). Therefore, we strongly urge HMRC to retain the levels of telephone support for taxpayers until MTD has been established.”
Making Tax Digital has faced a tricky development so far, and ATT recently said that HMRC should learn from the mistakes of the Real Time Information (RTI) programme.
“We agree it would be preferable, where possible, for individuals to self-serve online but this is not always possible because the complexity of tax means there will always be times when an individual needs to speak to HMRC,” Nunn said. “HMRC need to realise that automated messages are a source of frustration". "By making it hard to speak to someone they increase the risk of taxpayers guessing the answer and getting it wrong.”
Contractors will be hopeful that any dealings with HMRC moving forward will be as stress-free and easy as possible. Whether HMRC will be in a fit state to meet those expectations however is another matter.