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Delays will collapse the tax system

21 March 2011
Issue: 4297 / Categories: Right to a Reply , Admin
Further tales of unacceptable postal delays at HMRC

From: Keith M Gordon

To: Frank Dobson, MP for Holborn and St Pancras

This letter relates to a matter that is causing considerable concern among the tax profession: the increasing and unacceptable delays in obtaining replies from HMRC to routine correspondence. I would refer you to the attached excellent article, Right to a reply by Taxation editor Mike Truman, which explains all one needs to know.

As a practising barrister, I am largely spared the worst instances of such delays, although it infuriates me that my clients have to experience them as it only increases the anxiety and distress suffered by them when having to deal with the Revenue.

However, I believe that my own experiences set out below are typical of what taxpayers and their advisers more generally have to endure.

  • On 22 June 2010, I wrote to the Shipley Accounts office seeking a repayment of overpaid PAYE.
  • A response was sent to me nearly six months later on 6 December 2010.  However, that response took a further eight days to reach me.
  • That response constituted a refusal to make a repayment and invited me to appeal and to request an internal review.  I took up this option in a letter which I hand-delivered to my local tax office (but addressed to the reviewing office) on 15 December 2010.
  • Unlike most correspondence where there are at best target periods for turnaround, internal reviews are subject to statutory time limits.  A request for an internal review requires a full acknowledgement within 30 days and the internal review should be completed within a further 45 days.
  • Yet, three months later, I have not even received an acknowledgement of my December letter.

That was my second attempt in 2010 to invoke the internal review process. The first, by way of appeal and review request submitted in May, was similarly ignored even after my chasing things by phone in June and sending a duplicate by fax at the suggestion of one of the people I had subsequently spoken to. In fact, the only way I was able to elicit any form of response out of HMRC was by notifying my dispute directly to the First-tier Tribunal, which I duly did in September.

Given that the tax system will simply collapse if these delays persist (and I understand that a working tax administration would be helpful in getting this country’s finances back under control) would it be possible to ask the Treasury ministers what they consider to be an appropriate timeframe for a tax adviser to receive a reply from HMRC?

With my thanks for your assistance.

Keith M Gordon, Atlas Tax Chambers

Issue: 4297 / Categories: Right to a Reply , Admin
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