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.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

HMRC Re-organisation Gets Mixed Reaction

Here is a recent article by Nick Huber, published in Accountingweb, in which I have made a wee comment.

HMRC has re-structured about every year since it was created in 2005. Will this one improve the service for taxpayers?
Accountants reckon that HMRC latest re-organisation may finally improve the service to taxpayers and reduce bureaucracy. But will any gains be undermined by a shortage of staff at HMRC after tens of thousands of job cuts?

In October, HMRC’s four directorates will be reduced to three: Customer strategy and tax design, customer service and customer compliance:
  • The customer strategy and tax design group will be led by director general for business tax, Jim Harra. He will manage customer strategy, tax policy, process design and tax assurance teams. This group will manage customer service staff as well as specialist personal tax teams and “product and process” staff
  • A customer service group, run by current director general for customer services, Ruth Owen, will manage HMRC’s operational teams
  • A customer compliance group, led by director general for enforcement and compliance, Jennie Granger, will be responsible for compliance and enforcement work across HMRC, including the large business operation
Mike Down, head of tax investigations at RSM, told AccountingWEB that HMRC’s re-organisation would probably improve the service for taxpayers, although it may be about two years before the benefits start.
“[HMRC] is trying to really focus on customers,” he said. “I think it’s a simplification of the structure and they are trying to bring together teams that are engaged in similar work and hopefully by doing that they can improve the speed of response.”

Down said that the new customer compliance group, was part of an effort to strengthen HMRC’s tax compliance teams, which check that taxpayers are paying the correct tax.

HMRC has pooled resources in compliance and created specialist teams, focusing on sectors of the economy or types of taxpayer − such as tax avoidance by rich people (the ‘high net worth unit’).

HMRC’s new structure could help it get the full benefit of new powers, such as against offshore evasion. Meanwhile, the move to a digital tax system by 2020 may reduce some of the administrative strain (and backlog of tax cases), it’s hoped, allowing HMRC more time to improve its service.

Jonathan Riley, head of tax, at Grant Thornton UK, said: “Whilst we await detail, it is encouraging that HMRC seems to be focusing on strategy and design, suggesting HMRC may have greater connectivity with policy formulation than has been the case in recent years. This move combined with the Office of Tax Simplification being placed on a statutory basis suggests we may be moving into an era where we consider designing a tax regime that that works with and for business, allowing them to unlock growth and help create a vibrant economy.”

Union concerns

But other experts doubted whether the re-organisation would do much good.

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents HMRC workers, said that although it supported attempts to improve tax compliance and customer service, it wouldn’t solve what it said was one of HMRC’s main problems – too few staff.

HMRC has cut its workforce by about 45% since 2005, from 105,000 employees to 57,000, according to the PCS.
More job cuts are planned. By 2021, HMRC has estimated that it will employ 16% fewer people then now, most of whom will work in 13 regional centres.

“[HMRC] can re-organise all they like but if they don’t have enough staff they won’t be able to do a proper job,” the PCS spokesman said.

Poor service

Customer service levels collapsed between 2014 and 2015 because HMRC underestimated demand for its telephone service and reduced customer service capacity by cutting 5,600 jobs, the Public Accounts Committee said in July.

Average call waiting times tripled compared with previous levels, transferring an unreasonable cost to taxpayers, MPs on the parliamentary committee said, although it said that the service has improved since then.

Ken Frost, a chartered accountant and acerbic critic of HMRC, said that he didn’t think HMRC’s re-organisation would work because it was trying to do too many things at once – including digitising the tax system, cutting costs and staff and extending its telephone service.

Frost said that that a cabinet minister should be made solely responsible for HMRC.

Re-organisation fatigue

Some MPs want clarification about HMRC’s re-organisation.

Earlier in September, Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the treasury committee, wrote to Jon Thompson, HMRC's chief executive and permanent secretary, to query the justification for another re-organisation of the government department.

"On Tuesday, I pointed out that HMRC had been reorganised to some degree nearly once a year on average,” Tyrie said. “The last one was in November 2015. On Wednesday, they announced another one.”
During the Treasury Committee hearing on the UK's tax policy and tax base (on 6 September) Bill Dodwell, head of policy at Deloitte, said that HMRC had re-organised about a dozen times since the Inland Revenue merged with Customs & Excise in 2005.

“That sounds like quite a lot. Have there been too many reorganisations, how is this affecting you as a recipient of their product, and are they getting their objectives and priorities right?"

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Is another re-organisation necessary? NO. A tax regime that works for business and is simple to comply with would be great for taxpayers and their accountants. Unsure how this can be achieved though with thousands of jobs cut. The poor telephone service does not encourage one that things are changing. Perhaps if they spent our public better, for example cut out senior managers away days at the Emirate and Stamford Bridge and had less staff in the too numerous non-job roles (e.g. HR, media/spin, stats, bullying) and if they got their act together an improved service would not be so difficult to deliver. Just a thought.

  2. How about HMRC outsources all of its work to the private sector? Assurances would be needed over conflicts of interest and data security etc, but it could be delivered much, much cheaper. This could be delivered by smarter management of money (there would be no need for so many senior staff doing little or nothing for a start) and more resources to the frontline. The private firms would still need significant numbers of staff, who would be empowered to get on with real work, and more tax could be collected. Accordingly, such an idea ought to get wide support, including from the unions like PCS.

    1. UKREVLLP - HQ in Cayman Isles
      Zero hrs contracts
      Minimum wages
      IT by lowest bid
      HR by accident
      H&S by design
      Oversight by a specialist independant PAC
      Pensions managed by private sector (Oops...)
      Tax planning by outsourcing & lobbying (Oops...)
      Remote contact by robot
      Postaghe by private sector
      What could possibly go wrong?
      Oh yes, security by G4S (Oops...)
      Time for a new logo? How about a Dodo with its head up its rear or an Ostrich with its head in the sand
      Customer service - HaHaHarra

      Reorganisation, smoke and mirrors, serpent lubrication marketing, is there a Common Purpose to this other than to piss off already pissed off staff and taxpayers whilst wasting more money.
      Clue, you do not need to reorganise, you need to get bnack to basics FFS!

    2. The comment 27/9 @ 13:44 is correct to suggest HMRC should go back to basics. They do not exist to do all the rubbish they currently waste time, they are SUPPOSED to be a tax collecting service. NO need for a reorganisation - the staff already spend approx 75% of time on stuff which does not count as real work and this will just set them back further - they need to get on with their core purpose and do it considerably better.

    3. Compliance investigation work should never be outsourced, it would undermine taxpayer's trust in tax even further and it would be too difficult to eliminate any risk of conflict of interest.

      Call centres though no problem at all. And why on earth has their Field Force debt collection not been put out to tender with the private sector.

  3. Deckchairs. Titanic. That is all.

  4. All these "services" need managers who know the job. And experts who can do it. Plus no bullying of staff culture, career progress for experts, and correct staffing numbers. Simples !

    1. Those promoted to management roles should be those who excelled at doing the work - its called leadership by example but is not how progression currently works within Hmrc (social mobility it is not). As for the culture of staff bullying it will never end until there is independent governance of the organisation and consequences to the employment of anyone, however senior, involved in the dodgy cover-ups. The suggestion of a Cabinet Minister for HMRC is a great idea - of course they could ensure better service to the public and that the right amount is collected at the right time etc. A higher priority with Government would also bring possible protection to staff from the bullying and they could start by ordering an investigation into such misconduct past and present.

  5. One word regarding privitisation - Concentrix

    1. Is HMRC under its current 'leadership' structure ANY better than such outsourcing companies? Privatise it all and save the taxpayer some cash.

  6. What planet are HMRC on? Another reorganisation! Money spent on away days for HMRC senior management at famous football clubs! At the same time - within HMRC staff have suffered year on year pay freezes, are discouraged from claiming out of pocket expenses for doing their jobs and are now being made redundant for their troubles, and in the wider public sector local authorities budgets are reported to be at 'breaking point', and the NHS needs urgent additional funding, but the dear HMRC have money to spend on waste. How do they get away with it?

  7. yes , maybe Phillip Green as "tax czar " !The organisation is as far away from being a revenue collection vehicle as possible , obsessed with meaningless statistics and buzz words around IT , form filling and proceedures rather than outcomes, with a culture that treats using your iniative as a hanging offence , stuffed with managers , often DWP refugees, who no fuck all about tax and see no reason why they should -management role is to go to meetings, deal with e mails and make sure everyone else is busy while never taking responsibility for anything.Being a tax expert is like having a dog that juggles, its unusual but ultimately no one gives a shit .

    1. Totally agree. They don't like experts at HMRC. However, while the managers know nothing about tax, they also know nothing about 'managing'. They are, in effect, over paid HR administrators and most are pretty poor at that too...

  8. Any investigation, IF it happens, must go beyond the bullying and look closely at the huge amounts of money wasted by the inept managers, whether on useless contracts, replacing staff on long term sick who leave, undertaking even more useless 'resolving issues' or grievances as the wordly know them by and undertaken within management silos - is it any wonder they seldom find for the complainant?
    Most pathetic excuse for a civil service department and a poor example of a 'customer' centric organisation.
    Pass the criminal work to NCA and make the rest of it Civil only. Transfer across suitable investigators wanting to do the work as for most of those that went to SOCA as was.
    Put the creature out of its misery.

    1. Many investigators who made the choice to transfer from HMC&E for the promised land of SOCA-which failed so rebranded itself, at enormous cost to NCA, applied to return to HMRC simply because NCA are worse than HMRC are now.
      Make you wonder who is actually protecting the nation from those that seemingly rip millions out of both the system and from individuals without a care in the world when investigators in both areana's are chasing meaningless numerical targets and nothe those causing harm to the country.

  9. HMRC's job is to regulate the tax system. That is what we, the public, expect and pay them to do. However, if they can not act with integrity internally i.e. regulate themselves, why should we the public give them authority to regulate us? Its difficult to answer as there is such a clear contradiction. We demand those in such positions to have the highest standard of behaviour. The only solution is serious reform as suggested above. In the meantime, while the reorganisation will no doubt look wonderful on some people's CVs (no matter what the outcome is), the proposals being put forward by them will not resolve the serious underlying issues with this failing Department and will do little to help the average taxpayer.

  10. According to the papers Sam Allardyce allegedly described HMRC as "the most corrupt business" in Great Britain. He is also reported as allegedly saying people would be "shocked" On the morning after 'Big Sam' walked away from the England job, any thoughts on accountability from HMRC?

    1. Sam is spot on about one thing. HMRC are a totally inept, incompetent, cowardly, mismanaged, untrustworthy, unprofessional shambles. They always go after penniless small businesses over the slightest possible things but do not seem to want to chase up the rich and the multinationals. The attitude seems to be 'at least they pay something'. A small trader though, if they owe a few hundred quid and can't pay in full they speak to them like they're a criminal. Disgraceful bunch.

  11. Allardyce calling HMRC the most corrupt business in GB? Thats good for starters.
    That aside, there is no accountability within or around the periphery of HMRC.
    But, hold on a moment pilgrims, there is an old native American saying - 'no smoke without fire!'
    So, given the amount of smoke emanating from this organisation the conflagration concealed must be like the fires of hell.
    Get in there and damp it down, you know it makes sense.

  12. I am ashamed to admit I used to work for HMRC. There are some good people with a strong commitment to public service but there is no evidence it is shared by those at the top. The whole way the dept is operated including this latest 'reorganization' is wrong, wrong, wrong...

  13. The big Sheila , Jennie Granger , thinks this is a bonzer re-organisation. But so was the last one and the one before that.

  14. Forget all the statements made by HMRC about the reorganisation. Proceed with caution and wait to see how it goes. Be fair, but do judge them by their actions not by their weasel words. HMRC are in a state of perpetual 're-organisation', we've seen it all before, and it seldom has ANY benefit to taxpayers, accountants or their own staff. In fact quite often it provides cover for service cuts to the public - which isn't a bright idea as they are apparently tax collectors it paradoxically in less revenue - and job cuts to staff. Although stating 're-organisation' on your CV probably helps to climb the senior civil service ladder. HMRC is run for the benefit of its senior staff, not for the taxpayers.

  15. There are dozens of people in "change Management" in HMRC . If things don't change, they don't have jobs. Besides change seems dynamic and proactive and follows the current buzzwords, " customer focussed".

    1. in other words its a 'non-job' employment creation sham? adding no value to anything?

    2. HMRC now recruiting 4 change managers at 90K PA each.

    3. As per 30/9 18:00 it would appear the HMRC 'non-job' employment creation goes on shamelessly.

  16. God you people are thick.
    Reorganising four directorates into three means there is an INCREASE of staff per directorate so clearly a brilliant productivity initiative.
    Thank goodness you don't have anything to do with working out my tax.

    1. An increase in staff per directorate, but how exactly does that translate into a 'brilliantly productive initiative'? How does productivity overall increase from here? It does not. HMRC are a totally inefficient, lazy & incompetent outfit, and productivity is always very low. While there are some talented people with a strong commitment to public service working there (who are well thought of by Hmrc btw) the place is mismanaged and not fit for purpose.

    2. Too many pointless meetings, too much bullying, too many 'team-building' cake eating marathons, no recognition for the grafters who carry the rest etc etc. A failing organisation. Senior management have proved they're incapable of turning it around, time for the Government to put more of their work out to tender to those who are capable and willing to work hard.