HMRC is doing its best to destroy small businesses because of crippling delays, which have resulted in rebates going unpaid for months on end.
HMRC is taking several months to process post and deal with issues that should take weeks under normal circumstances.
Taxpayers are missing out on large refunds, which has severely impacted businesses’ cash flows. Accountants said the tax authority had “ground to a halt”.
Experts said the large numbers of HMRC staff working from home was likely to blame, as well as the clampdown on furlough fraud which they said had resulted in more taxpayer requests requiring additional verification.
Myelin Verboom of tax firm Mcas said one of her clients was still waiting on a six-figure payment. Her business could go bust if it did not receive the money soon, she warned.
“We have a property developer who bought a block of buildings, incurring a £250,000 VAT bill which was deductible. They have been trying to claim it back but the delays are so bad they have not even been able to register their business to pay the levy.
There is a real risk these delays will end up pushing firms out of business because of the cash flow problems they are causing.”
Stuart Crofton of accountancy firm Stuart Crofton Tax said anything that required human intervention was taking longer than normal.
“I have one rebate of £50,000 still outstanding which we applied for in April. It is a massive loss for our clients. While HMRC will handover the paltry 0.5pc or so in interest the refund has accrued whilst it has sat in the tax office’s accounts, it pales when compared to the returns they could have enjoyed investing that money in the FTSE” .
HMRC aims to refund overpaid VAT within 30 days. However, its turnaround times have lengthened significantly since the start of the pandemic.
Two thirds of letters addressed to HMRC went unanswered for more than two weeks in April and performance levels are still low, as the above chart shows.
Lisa Styles of Hespera, another tax firm, said even simple tasks such as registering for self assessment were taking far longer than normal, meaning newly self-employed people faced being fined for late filing or tax payments next year.
If someone became self-employed last year and needed to register as self-employed to file their return and pay tax by January 31, the deadline to do this was October 5. But delays mean some are being told they will not be added to the system until March 2022, accountants said.
Ms Styles said part of the backlog was down to a higher number of fraud checks than normal. HMRC has been tasked with recovering billions lost to fraudulent furlough claims. Higher numbers of staff are now working away from the office, after new rules allowing staff to work from home two days a week were introduced.
Self assessment services were also impacted after 5,000 staff were seconded to provide Covid-19 support during the crisis, although service levels in that department have since recovered to more normal levels, according to tax office sources.
A spokesman for HMRC said:
“We know there is more to do to improve turnaround on customer correspondence, and we expect to see further improvements as we emerge from the pandemic and continue to rebalance how we prioritise our resources.”
Tell that to the people whose livelihoods you have destroyed because of your delays!
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