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.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Morse Worried About Optimism Bias and Underwriting Failure

Amyas Morse, the Comptroller and Auditor General, issued a report last week on the 2015-16 accounts of HMRC.

HMRC is running a complex and challenging set of change programmes, and aiming to maintain service to taxpayers at the same time. On the one hand, it needs to keep its nerve and commitment to its goals even if there are occasional setbacks along the way; on the other, it needs to ensure that it does not make the taxpayer underwrite the risk of failure through service breakdowns.”
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 14 July 2016

Tax revenues and spending in 2015-16
HMRC raised £536.8 billion of tax revenues this year, an increase of £19.1 billion (3.7%) on 2014-15 and paid out £40 billion in benefits and credits (approximately one-fifth of the government’s total benefit expenditure). The annual cost of running HMRC was £3.2 billion in 2015-16 (£3.1 billion in 2014-15).

Transforming tax administration
HMRC has begun to implement its plans to transform how it administers tax. Its vision is to have “the most digitally advanced tax system in the world”. By 2021, it expects to employ 16% fewer staff, substantially rationalise its estate and automate more of its processes.

HMRC’s approach looks credible and proportionate to the scale of the risks involved, and it has worked closely with the Treasury and Cabinet Office to develop and refine its plans. It is too early to evaluate how well its approach is working but one of the most critical tests will be how management responds when things do not go as expected. NAO have identified two areas of risk:
  • Optimism bias in key assumptions – in the last Parliament, HMRC was over-optimistic about how much change it could deliver all at once, and how fast it could reduce demand for telephone contact in particular. This resulted in a collapse of its service to personal taxpayers in 2014-15 and the first half of 2015-16. HMRC has since recovered the quality of its service to personal taxpayers by recruiting more staff and has adjusted its future resource plans in the light of this experience.
  • Understanding the costs and benefits to taxpayers – HMRC has yet to estimate the costs for individual taxpayers or businesses of making the transition to online services or to quantify the benefits they can expect. Over the next year, it plans to develop a fuller picture of what it will cost taxpayers to use the new systems. Most business customers will be required to update HMRC quarterly rather than annually about their tax affairs, and some may need to purchase new software that works with the new systems. Some businesses are sceptical of HMRC’s evaluations of the costs and benefits of previous changes to the tax system.
As Morse says, let us ensure that we taxpayers do not end up underwriting HMRC's failure!

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. It is notable that they say that a "critical test will be how management responds when things do not go as expected". HMRC management are totally incompetent, so the test seems to have been set a bit high. As for "service breakdowns", the public already receive an inept non-service. Having sent a letter to HMRC via recorded delivery (they don't do email - they're about 20 years behind the real world) 2 months ago, still haven't had a reply. The most unprofessional organisation in the UK.

  2. A little suggestion to the senior management at hmrc - if you really want to reduce 'demand' for telephone contact, would it be an idea to get officers to put their email address on letters they issue? If taxpayers can communicate via email they then don't have to waste their time calling telephone numbers which too often are not even answered during business hours.

    1. A better suggestion to reduce demand would be get an IT system that doesn't spuriously spew out shite,

    2. You have a point about the spurious correspondence - that's a very long standing problem. I wonder how many million of pounds could have been saved?

  3. So HMRC are getting rid of experienced staff - either via redundancy payments or their even more disgusting 'cost neutral' methods of bullying - and are simultaneously recruiting more (inexperienced) staff according to the NAO. Would this not seem to be utter madness, at a great cost to the taxpayer, to any right thinking person???

  4. How much of these so called 'cost savings' (hah) is really 'costs transferred to taxpayers'?

    Online VAT takes longer to deal with than filling in four numbers on a form and signing a cheque, especially in quarters when there is tax to pay i.e. most of them.

    Online income tax also takes longer.

    Until we know this, there is no chance of proving that HMRC's policy saves UK-PLC anything at all.

    1. They're not really that bothered about "customers" or saving UK Plc money. Some clueless wonder in the ivory towers of hmrc will look upon this as an example for their CV (no matter how unsuccessful it ultimately is), move on up the senior civil service ladder and leave taxpayers and frontline staff to deal with the resulting chaos.

    2. ...and there you have it!!! It's all about having the management speak Bullshit bingo, which enable the brown nosers to slither up the shite smeared pole!

  5. '...even if there are occasional setbacks along the way'.

    There *WILL* be setbacks along the way, but whereas staff get their arses kicked for not meeting targets management have set, no matter how badly management fail to meet targets THEY have set, or are set by Government, any report into the matter just says "We've done a great deal of work, but we recognise there is more to do'.

    Somehow this makes them seem in control and competent, when they are very far from either.

    1. In other words the management are out of control & incompetent and the bullying culture continues (all covered up with the help of the HR people).

  6. Does anyone know why HMRC think they have a perfect right to bully staff???

    1. It's what any good modern employer does these days... Apparently!!

  7. Really??? Maybe in unreal world of HMRC bullying is seen as 'modern'. In the private sector, and indeed the more productive parts of the public sector, management recognise it as counterproductive and would weed out any disturbed managers engaged in such conduct.

  8. Look-up definition of PSYCHOPATH

    Apply to HMRC/IR/C&E managers past and present.

    Then wonder why, despite the medical profession, unions, solicitors, M.P.'s, PAC, NAO, social and news media all being aware, it is still continuing?

    There is not and has not been much oversight of the appalling state of affairs despite widespread knowledge.

    Senior management - Hartnett & Homer and EXCOM Muppets have all turned a blind eye to it, despite the risk of a vicarious liabilty or group class action, however low that is, and, unless taken to task under criminal and civil law will simply continue to bully or do fuck all about it.

    Should Ken use some analytical ability on the sheer volume of bullying data recorded on this site we would all be shocked at the result.

    Go for it Ken.