Taxation logo taxation mission text

Since 1927 the leading authority on tax law, practice and administration

Lack of basic tax knowledge

28 February 2011
Issue: 4294 / Categories: Forum & Feedback , Right to a Reply
Our Right to Reply campaign continues with readers' help...

From: Amanda Lambert

To: Jim Sheridan, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North

I am writing to you regarding the continuing delays and appalling service which HMRC are giving to customers and agents.

I work in a small solicitor’s office in Glasgow dealing with personal tax returns and I find that the attitude of the staff at HMRC is consistently unhelpful and it is clear that there is a lack of basic tax knowledge and very little customer care. I am fortunate that I can use the agent’s priority line, but even so this does not appear to reduce the delays.

Some examples of poor service are as follows:

  1. When a repayment from an R40 form has been issued incorrectly, which has been a very frequent occurrence of late, I find that having sent the cheque back to HMRC along with my own calculation showing the correct repayment, it can take months for them to issue another repayment. This is after making numerous phone calls to chase and speaking to a different individual each time, who refuses to give out their surname making them unaccountable for anything.
  2. If a client does not come within the self-assessment regime and a form 64-8 is required to be completed manually, I find that it can take 12 weeks for this form to be processed, making it impossible to deal with any matters on my client’s behalf during this period.
  3. When one is awaiting a phone call back from HMRC, more often than not no-one phones back, and because one individual is not allocated to a particular client, and because this is all run via a call centre, I have to explain the issue on each occasion to a different individual and run through the security checks again which is very time consuming for my part, and costly for my clients.
  4. When a repayment is requested on-line this does not seem to action any repayment, and a phone call is required to be made, which is most frustrating as it is a lengthy process having to go through security checks and explain the reason for the call, which is then often not dealt with and the entire process needs to be performed again, until eventually someone deals with it.
  5. Trust income reported on a form R40 appears to result in the net income being shown as gross in the calculation issued by HMRC, thus causing lengthy delays as above, with letters taking 12 weeks to be dealt with. This is after the R40 has already taken up to this length of time to issue the incorrect repayment and the subsequent phone calls to chase.

This is a mere collection of some of the many issues I have experienced with HMRC, but [a taxpayer] has experienced significant delays with his 2008/09 tax return which is still ongoing, and I shall briefly outline the issues regarding this.

There is a question as to the correct treatment for the receipt of patents and to date he has written to HMRC on many occasions with very little progress. He has also contacted the Complaints Department (copy of letter attached which explains the issue) and although they initially responded, he has had to telephone them to request an update and is currently awaiting a phone call back.

I will not go into the great detail of the issue, but I am using this as an extreme example of the way HMRC deal with technical areas and their lack of knowledge and shoddy customer service.

As you can imagine this is very frustrating for all parties involved and I would urge you to write to David Gauke at the Treasury requesting that he responds by stating the time limits which he thinks reasonable – not the ones which he thinks that HMRC can currently obtain, but the ones which he thinks would provide a reasonable service to advisers.

I am also enclosing a copy of an article which appeared in the 27 January 2011 issue of Taxation which has prompted me to write to you.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Amanda Lambert CTA ATT

Editorial note

A copy of the letter referred to by Ms Lambert in her penultimate paragraph was sent to us. Sadly, the contents will come as little surprise to most advisers. We will not reproduce the whole letter but simply the opening sentences:

‘I refer to my letters of 26 April 2009, 13 October 2009 and 14 April 2010 together with the information detailed in my 2008/09 tax return and various phone calls to yourselves.

‘To date I have not received a reply from you regarding the treatment of the [income source] to which these letters refer. I am therefore reiterating the circumstances again and would appreciate a response.’

Issue: 4294 / Categories: Forum & Feedback , Right to a Reply
back to top icon