“Tax doesn’t haven’t to be taxing” was HMRC’s slogan throughout the noughtIes. Ironic, that, when you examine the latest research collated by law firm Pinsent Masons.
In a study examining over 58,000 complaints received by HMRC in 2010/11, their findings revealed that in a staggering 33,000 cases the Government department admitted at least a degree of culpability. In more sensationalist terms, around 3 out of 5 complaints to the taxman ended up with them admitting some fault. At the root of these complaints by small businesses were unreasonable delays, mistakes and poor treatment by HMRC staff. Standard service for a Government body, in other words.
According to George Gillham, tax expert at Pinsent Masons, behind the the problems at HMRC towers are both “de-skilling on the front line” and the “massively increased complexity of the tax system over the past fifteen years.” To anyone who’s tried to get their head around the tax system, that second part will no doubt ring true.
In an attempt to rejuvenate themselves and placate angry taxpayers, the HMRC have decided to throw more money and bodies at the problems, recruiting and training an extra 1000 contact staff, in a bid to reduce the lengthy waiting times so often faced by freelancers and small businesses when, god forbid, they need to get in contact with the tax office. They’re also cutting the ribbon on a new call centre in a few days.
Whether HMRC’s investment in a wealth of new, (hopefully) tax savvy staff pays dividends only time will tell. As Gillham suggests though, at the heart of many of the problems is a vastly complicated tax system, unfriendly to HMRC workers, freelancers and small businesses alike. Whilst a recruitment drive may help address the ‘de-skilling’ at the HRMC onset by the budget cuts, a less complex tax system would probably help too.
In fact, even Adam Hart-Davis, the man who fronted those annoying HMRC adverts admitted as much. “I wish tax was simpler” was his verdict when interviewed by the BBC back in 2008.
Photo by acornchief