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Revenue service levels still falling: ICAEW

22 November 2010
Categories: News
Authorities must make better use of technology, says Tax Faculty

The ICAEW Tax Faculty has expressed grave anxieties over what it sees as the Revenue’s increasing inability to function adequately for the benefit of taxpayers and their advisers.

The accountancy body said it was ‘very concerned that overall service standards have fallen steadily’ at the department over recent years, as a result of ongoing cost-reduction measures.

‘We continue to question whether HMRC can meet its aspiration to “provide an increasingly efficient and high quality service” while reducing staff numbers,’ said the accountancy body in response to the results of its latest survey of members, which targets the difficulty of communicating with the taxman as one of the biggest problems for agents.

Earlier this year, the National Audit Office (NAO) lambasted HMRC for failing to answer enough telephone calls from taxpayers. Faculty members echoed the NAO’s criticisms, saying that getting through to the department was frequently time-consuming.

They added that the operators lacked sufficient knowledge to resolve queries; 71% of respondents reported that in at least five of their last ten calls to HMRC, they needed further contact to resolve an issue.

Agent-dedicated telephone lines were generally well-regarded, but the faculty said that overall ‘there has been a steady and marked decline in the quality of HMRC’s telephone service’ since 2007.

The survey found that agents would prefer to communicate with the Revenue by email – but, while the taxman has discussed the matter with professional organisations, ‘there are still significant problems’, said the ICAEW.

‘HMRC need to make available email tools, such as structured [messages], and to at least accept inbound email as an alternative to post wherever possible. This has the potential to increase efficiency and save costs for agents, their clients and the department.’

Better use of all technology, not just email, by the Revenue is of concern to the member of the Tax Faculty and, which claimed that ‘well-targeted investment in improved IT systems could produce substantial savings in the medium-to-longer term to support the ambitious budget reduction targets that HMRC have been set’.

A spokesperson for HMRC responded to the ICAEW's criticisms by saying: 'We take the quality of service we provide to tax agents very seriously; where we fall short, we aim to do better.

'There is already a dedicated facility on our website designed specifically for tax professionals, and we are currently reviewing agents’ web services on both the HMRC and Business Link sites over the next few months as part of an overall improvement package.'

Categories: News
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