HMRC came in for something of a pasting during a Commons Treasury select committee meeting this week.
The underlying problem, according to various tax professionals attending the committee, is that cuts in HMRC staffing levels are causing time to be wasted by tax advisers and their clients (this is the "Big Society" in action, whereby the pain from the cuts is spread around a bit).
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the ACCA, told the committee that HMRC's contention that there had been no reduction in quality of customer service was "nonsense", and that there was a perception that HMRC staff are not fully trained and "are not tax people".
Paul Aplin, chairman of the Tax Faculty Technical Committee at the ICAEW, was quoted by Accountancy Age:
"The experience with the HMRC five or six years ago is completely different to now.
To get a relatively simple thing done, like changing a tax code, would have taken a phone call. Now it can take months. In that period, I have to waste HMRC's time and my clients grow frustrated."
Aplin went on to warn that the situation will actually get worse, as further cuts are implemented, and that people's trust in the tax system is being undermined.
Aplin said that his firm regularly waits two to three months for a reply from HMRC to a letter, which more often than not has been lost by HMRC.
"..I don't think it [HMRC] is broken but I think it is stretched almost to breaking point."
HMRC, recognise there is a problem, a spokesman said:
"We are determined to improve those areas of our business that are currently not delivering the quality of service to which we aspire."
The question is, are the right people in positions of authority within HMRC in order to be able to drive through an improvement in service levels/quality etc?
Are the politicians capable of appointing the right people to ExComm?
Tax does have to be taxing.
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