Tax Office Gaffes
The Treasury Select Committee has held Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) responsible for intolerable deficiencies in fundamental services in a scathing report. The document highlights the fact that members of the public could lose all faith in the tax system.
With delays in answering calls from the public, and even calls going completely ignored, HMRC chairman Mike Clasper has issued an unprecedented apology to the public citing staff being run off their feet as the reason. Coupled with this problem is over emphasis on online systems which trump people who don’t have a good internet connection and especially those who have no access at all.
All of this follows on from last year’s catastrophic error which led to six million people paying the wrong amount of tax.
Tax experts have told MPs the service is close to self destruction after the IT systems of HM Customs and Excise were amalgamated with the Inland Revenue’s computers. Substandard customer service has compounded the problem with technical systems and the dire roll out of the new payrollsystem has left people with an awful impression of the UK tax office.
Reliance of Online Approach Condemned
The report did highlight the tremendous amount of complicated tax laws which HMRC has to deal with as well as the fact that many people in top positions have been rendered unaware of important matters in the everyday running of the UK economy. MPs described the future of HMRC as ‘bleak’ since the department in reality costs only a hundredth of the amount of money it collects to run.
Further cut backs therefore make little sense given the erosion of public trust.
The reliance on online systems and scaling down of face-to-face opportunities for individuals and businesses to seek important advice must be changed if respect is to be restored. In particular the report seriously recommends that the phone system be massively improved even if it costs money to do so.
Whether the UK tax system can be improved sufficiently before further damage is done remains to be seen.