HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The £1.5BN Write Off

Write OffThe media report that HMRC has a backlog of approximately 7.5m tax cases that, because they date back to 2007/8 (pre new IT system), are being dealt with manually.

Within the backlog are underpayments of approximately £2BN.

Exchequer Secretary, David Gauke, was very clear recently in Parliament stating that:

"Being left with the worst deficit in peacetime history means we simply cannot afford to write off all of these underpayments."

As ever with politicians, words and reality do not always match.

The fundamental issue facing HMRC is that they have to perform a cost benefit analysis to determine as to whether their resources (time, manpower and money) that they will need to use to chase up these debts will be actually "adding value" in recovering this debt.

In simple terms, will the debt recovered exceed the costs of actually recovering it?

Given the age of some of the debt taxpayers could mount a legal challenge against any recovery effort by HMRC, which in turn would cost HMRC (wrt time, effort and legal fees) were HMRC to stand its ground.

Like it or not, whatever the politicians and shouty media say, this is a simple matter of weighing up costs vs returns.

The BBC have quoted an unnamed HMRC employee:

"For each underpayment there are thousands of pounds owed. Underpayments are very frustrating.

If we had the chance to sort it out three years ago we could have recovered the money. It is now likely to be written off if it's over two years – we're not looking at underpayments beyond two years.

Our directors are telling people that [those who owe tax] will appeal and fight it and this will generate more work

The BBC report estimates a write off of around £1.5BN.

Whilst it is quite correct to argue that HMRC should not have found itself in this situation, it is not correct for the politicians (who have totally "buggered" HMRC up over the years) and shouty media to start moaning at HMRC for making a perfectly correct financial assessment that if the costs of recovery exceed the returns then the debt should be written off.

Financial reality and politicians' soundbites do not always match.

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Looks like another government department taking the easy option out. The CSA have always shied away from cases where they may have to actually do some work to recover the money owed as well.

    This is just another kick in the teeth for people who do the right thing.

  2. I agree!! Why should sa customers pay and paye get off with 300.00 when some of them have earned thousands and knew they werent paying enouh tax!! It is a joke and I know I work there.

  3. Have you seen Professor John Sedodn's criticisms of HMRC?

    He started highlighting what was wrong in his newsletters in 2006 and for some reason the government will not ask him to sort it out

  4. 23 September 2010 20:32, very true.
    A few years ago we got some tax credits and because I earned more than expected (I am self employed) we had to pay some back. Now I see that I should have just made an accounting mistake and I would not have had to pay back the £200.