The ICAEW has published the results of its survey into its members' views of HMRC's Customer Service Standards (conducted between May and July of this year).
The survey indicates that standards are falling.
"We are extremely concerned that overall service standards seem to continue to fall."
Key issues being:
HMRC acknowledges that tax agents are an essential part of the UK tax system. Agents need to be able to communicate with HMRC easily, efficiently and reliably. However, overall service standards have fallen steadily as HMRC continues to seek to reduce its costs and improve its efficiency.
ICAEW questions whether HMRC can meet its aspiration to 'provide an increasingly efficient and high quality service' while reducing staff numbers: the evidence from the ICAEW survey and elsewhere reinforces ICAEW's concerns.
HMRC should concentrate resources on:
- better trained staff
- nominated staff having ownership of problems
- email access to HMRC.
Communication with HMRC is one of the biggest problems for agents. It is difficult to get through on the telephone, the people answering the phones have insufficient knowledge to be able to resolve queries, promised call backs do not happen and letters remain unanswered.
In 2010, 71% (2009, 63%; 2007, 55%) of respondents reported in at least five of the last ten calls to HMRC, they needed to have further contact in order to resolve the enquiry.
In 2010 61% (2009, 50%; 2007, not asked) of respondents felt that the level of
knowledge of HMRC knowledge staff was rarely or never sufficient to answer an enquiry.
34% of VAT queries took longer than three months (2009,21%; 2007, 20%) to receive a full reply.
Tax does have to be taxing.
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