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.

Friday, 6 January 2012

IT Issues

My thanks to a loyal reader who sent me a copy of a missive that he sent to HMRC just before Christmas, concerning VAT issues and problems using HMRC's online system.

"Dear HelpDesk

first of all: We will no long communicate with HMRC as long you decline a reply by email but force people to hmrc web site and castrate them to 2000 characters!

It's amazing and frustrating how "carefully" you read the enquiries of your tax payers.

Yes, our business is already registered for VAT, and our VAT No. reads as follows: XXXX; and of course the business must be already registered for VAT in order to BE ABLE to enroll for EU VAT REFUNDS AND RCSL.

But this was not the question.


The reason for this could be, that you not yet have changed our post code from XXX to XXX. We have many times written to you, and again and again noted you the change since 3 years.

The second part of our enquiry below was where and how to download ECSL forms, as we have run out of paper forms. Your answer has not even tickled this part of our inquiry.

After a long search we have meanwhile found the online resources on the HMRC web site and could download the form. HMRC cannot cover their tax payers with penalty and delay charges but does not ensure, that the online service facilities HMRC offers is functional.

We had the same horror with the enrolment / registration for Corporation Tax on what has taken you  an ample time of  'only' 3 years (!!) to resolve and after many written but ignored enquiries from our site.

Finally after you got this running and could issue a CT No. to us, HMRC 'rewarded' us with a tax estimation and penalties of meanwhile £XXXX (!!!!) which goes far back to the day of incorporation of the business!

In the UK it's ridiculously enough common to say "Thank You" for just everything.

So, let me "Thank You" for the £XXXX!

Thank you, that you widely opened me the occasion to simply be too stupid to deal with HMRC's buggy online system and of course, it is finally on me who caused all the delays. I believe this is what you want your tax payers to act like. It must be like a haunting melody, an excellent sounding symphony in your ears!

After all of this I am very scared that HMRC moves straight forward to have almost everything done online. Indeed, it's a great idea. 

But not with a poor system!

Due to the continuous malfunctioning online system HMRC might rather end up in receiving more penalty & delay charges than tax amounts owned to the crown.

So I finally come to the following conclusion:

a) I am currently not able to provide and submit all the necessary tax returns in an accurate manner as HMRC's online self-service system permanently refuses our attempts to enrol for the required services.

b) Either my English language skill is that bad so that no one can track down what I want to articulate, or it's by now time to face once and for all the sad fact, that in England a lot of things are handled with negligence, but on the same time a highly sophisticated system catalogue of penalty, delay, administration and handling charges' is maintained just waiting for someone goes astray.

Please advise, AND:  Thank You!"

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  1. HMRC doesn't actually provide the online service. It has always been outsourced i.e. provided by a private company.

    Some people on this site would prefer more privatisation in HMRC. See

    Oh well never mind.... Cake anyone?

  2. And before anyone jumps on the one issue that HMRC is responsible for (not setting up a CT record until after incorporation) I actually agree. That is rubbish!

    I used to know people who did this kind of work. But seeing as this work has been now been centralised/rationalised as a low priority I can't name one person who still does this. Never mind, having 'too many staff' that did 'admin functions' was just 'whitehall waste' wasn't it?

  3. "HMRC doesn't actually provide the online service. It has always been outsourced i.e. provided by a private company."

    So what, it is provided to the tax payers by HMRC so it is HMRC's responsibility to ensure it is fit for use.

  4. Scarlet Pimpernel7 January 2012 at 13:59

    Tbh, most of the staff I speak to hate the online system too. We make comments to management but they live in 'lalalalalalaland'*fingers in ears*

    From an inside perspective I see 2 main problems:

    1) Higher management keep changing team names/functions/objectives & inplementing new initiatives that haven't been thought through very well- if at all.

    This results not only in people being shifted into jobs they are not suited to/trained for, but because there is no wider organisation, trying to find the right person to deal with an issue is difficult inside the department (let alone for the people we are trying to serve- and this is well argued inside the department 'at the coalface', but never seems to reach those that make the decisions. Commonly perceived as high middle management not wanting their screw-ups known)

    2)Whoever signs off on most of the departmental systems are idiots. Inside the department we had a new system called 'Caseflow' rolled-out from around 18 mopnths ago.

    I have spoken to NO-ONE who uses the system (that will total hundreds) that thinks it is fit for purpose. The same applies to many HMRC systems.

    Nonsensical flow to the systems, unable to offer what the user needs, adding needless time to the process- all this sound familiar?

    I guess I wish some would distinguish between HMRC management and the general staff. I know some of the staff are utter wastes of space- I 'work' with a few of them- but most really do try to offer good service. Unfortunately the ill thought through processes/obstacles put in the way by management result in unnecesary issues.

    Do HMRC offer good service? Not particularly. But much of this is despite most staff wanting to.

  5. "So what, it is provided to the tax payers by HMRC so it is HMRC's responsibility to ensure it is fit for use."

    *buzz* wrong!

    Provided to taxpayers on behalf of HMRC.

    Of course it's HMRC's responsibility to make sure it's right. Customer service dictates that HMRC is the customer is always right, or so the mantra on this site goes. Yet the private company still manages to get things wrong and charges millions to fix it co it "wasn't in the specification".

    Maybe HMRC learned all this bad customer service practice from receiving such bad customer service from the private sector.

  6. "Understanding and using HMRC's Online Services"

    Looks like it's yours after all or maybe the website needs changing.


  7. 7 January 2012 22:23

    Yep and maybe all the chain pubs across the country should say on their menu's that their food isn't locally sourced and cooked fresh it's provided by Brake Brothers and 3663.

    What's your point?

  8. "What's your point?"

    My point is quite simple.

    You have a problem with accepting responsibility for your own systems and service. You will always have something clever to say but will always be looking for someone else to blame for your own failings and the failings of your organisation.

  9. That's fine then, next time I buy a bag of Doritos from Tesco and find it's gone mouldy I'll just try to put all the blame the cashier who scanned it through, much like the person in this post has done.

    Except, what if I self scanned? Who would I blame then?

  10. Thank you for confirming my point.

  11. @8 January 2012 11:32

    Your suggestion then is that even though the cashier had nothing to do with the farming, manufacturing, processing, distribution, delivery, stock control, replenishment etc of the item, the simple matter is that you purchased the item not knowing it to be faulty, it turned out to be faulty and so the person at the bottom of the chain i.e the person in the blue t-shirt who handed the item over to you (in a big with a receipt for 49p) should take all the blame?

    Stop kidding yourselves thinking that the people on this site are the higher-ups some of them don't even know how to use a keyboard let alone a blog.

    Except of course in the case of the online service, it's a service provided by a private company who are indirectly funded by taxpayers, which makes HMRC a customer and the people that use the online service, the users.

    HMRC's failures here as far as I can work out are failing to set up the company under the CT system then retrospectively charging penalties for the failure to submit returns.

    The fact that the online service didn't work isn't the users fault if the only option the government has given them is to file online and the online service didn't work.

    However, complaining to the online helpdesk about penalties won't get them anywhere with regards to their penalties. The online helpdesk don't know anything about penalties. It's the same as if you rang your ISP's IT helpdesk and asked them why you had a problem with the ISP's direct debit.

    I know that people are going to suggest that because there is an online service it should work for everybody all of the time, even when there are alternatives to using it. Let me expand on the 'user' principle where a service is taxpayer funded.

    Let's say I am an undergraduate at a university (public or private, doesn't matter). I'm due to write my dissertation, up until now I've been able to use the resources of my university library or if not the local public library.

    I'm nearing the end of my final year. I really need a particular resource to support my findings, it's critical to the conclusion of my dissertation. The University Library doesn't have the resource I need, the public library doesn't either and doesn't expect to be able to order any copies before the due date of submission of the dissertation, but suggests I might pay for it by using a bookshop.

    I, as a student, smugly edit my work to state that I can't support my findings due to a lack of evidence.

    The panel of professors reject my work and refuse to award any kind of degree certification.

    Who do I shout at first? The panel, the university library or the public library? Or do I accept things have gone wrong, take steps to clean things up the best I can knowing that things can be sorted out or do I just demand that everything is the fault of the public library?

    The posts above aren't meant to suggest that HMRC takes no responsibility. Unfortunately, as with everything in life when things go wrong it's usually the fault of everyone involved not just one party.

  12. Unfortunately, as with everything in life when things go wrong it's usually the fault of everyone involved not just one party.

    Sorry I should rephrase that as it's usually the responsibility of everyone involved to deal with the clear-up not just one party.

  13. 7 January 2012 13:59

    "Do HMRC offer good service? Not particularly. But much of this is despite most staff wanting to."

    No doub tmost 'customers' agree with you – HMRC do not offer a reasonable service (not good) and it is difficult to blame any one member of staff (and if so make a formal complaint as I did over one member of HMRC staff who abused me and I received compensation) – most cutomers (and the whole world) now recognise HMRC is as an organiation is 'not fit for purpose' (not staff) as an organisation i.e managment and syatems (not staff).

    However there does appear to be a large number of disgruntled members of HMRC staff who post here and constantly blame 'the customer' while failing to recognise the real problems – including ignorant HMRC members of staff (as in any large organisation).

  14. "However there does appear to be a large number of disgruntled members of HMRC staff who post here and constantly blame 'the customer' while failing to recognise the real problems".

    As with any large organisation, neither the customer or the employee will fit the round hole.

    If a private company has a 'bad customer' it can choose not to deal with them any longer. Not a choice the civil service has.

    HMRC has to deal with a wide spectrum of people by law.

    Some of them are genuinely vulnerable, some of them pretend to be vulnerable. Guess which group most HMRC staff on a customer letters section would choose to deal with in a positive customer service fashion? You guessed it. The first lot. At least they have a reason for writing in, not just to be an egotistical irreproachable ****.

    The paperwork of the "You must know everything about me surely? You're a bunch of ****, I know my rights" brigade end up narrowly missing the file reserved for crisp packets and banana skins.

  15. With regards to some opinions stated here,
    kindly allow to add some real facts:

    We are the one which made the "IT Issue" experience public to Mr. Frost, as the situation or better "desperation" run out of hand.

    I can assure you, that I learned one lesson very well: DO IT WRITTEN! Each correspondence HMRC concerned is forwarded with DHL registered mail.

    HMRC has received ALL our mail.

    But if getting ignored and even consulting finally a psychologist to get testified the "all clear" because of being in serious doubt if being real at all, is somewhat strange.

    The one comment here, that the most HMRC online users have insufficient skills to make proper use of a computer keyboard, I can reassure you, that concerning us, this is unlikely to be the case if you take into account, that we are a small software engineering company and all have studied computer science.

    We love to do as much as possible online. But it is quite inconvenient, if online facilities are offered, e. g. the nice PDF-Forms with a data submit function, but on the other end the server is down which usually should eat and proceed your data.

    We documented this many times by screen shot and a time output from an atomic synchronized NTP server right next to it.

    Forget it! Even haven given up after 5 days, then printed the screenshots and forwarded them with the printed return form attached involving registered DHL mail, they kept on ticking their penalty clock.

    May devil take care! I will not pay almost 30k for the stupidity and ignorance when I, as an honest trading director having always an eye never to fail, take any reasonable action to push the matter towards a solution and
    maintain steady correspondence with the areas concerned.

    To enjoy an ensemble of wooden puppets I can get a much cheaper theater ticket.

    Over the past months I am simply shocked about the numberless crucial issues which suddenly went wrong. HMRC is by far not the only institution where to point to.

    Just casually, I am German, and since 4 years with my business in the UK and really, I love you Brits and the UK, but sometimes I honestly find it marvellous that you do not loose the tiniest bit of your temper even if the biggest maniac turns up in front of you!

    e. g. if a German bank clerk would advise me to be liable to a 4 GBP per day fee for being just a pence overdrawn, I'd ask him for the today's FX rate of a 9mm triggered from an HK P7.

    What disaster!
    Hope is a good thing. It is the best we have!

    All the best!

    1. In the UK, threatening someone with Gun Violence is a crime. (Protection from Harassment Act 1997).