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Reply to Right to a Reply

22 March 2011
Issue: 4297 / Categories: Right to a Reply , Admin
'HMRC have published service standards for dealing with correspondence'

Taxation has received a reply from David Gauke, the Exchequer secretary to the Treasury, to Mike Truman’s letter as contained in his article Right to a reply.

Mr Gauke's letter reads as follows.

Thank you for your letter of 24th January 2011.

I have had a number of meetings with agents over the last few months and I have heard at first hand their views on HMRC performance, both areas where they do well, and areas where agents would like to see improvement. I appreciate their frustrations and am looking on their behalf to ensure HMRC deliver improvements in these areas.

HMRC do have published service standards for dealing with correspondence. They are to deal with 80% within 15 working days and 95% within 40 working days. I would like to see them deliver a service that meets or betters that.

I am keen to see specific improvements in the areas you have highlighted, though in the immediate term while the department is getting up to date with improvements to the PAYE system, it is sensible for the current service standards to remain as they are for now.

I am advised that the department is making good progress towards improving customer service in PAYE: already 96% of PAYE 2009/10 customers’ accounts have been reconciled where the data has matched with their systems, and customers notified of any under or over payment. That is a substantial step forward on performance under the old computer system.

HMRC believe that the considerable advantages of the new computer PAYE system will enable them to bring their work up to these standards in all areas. From there they can move on to exploring new service standards, informed by customer need, perhaps along the lines outlined in your letter.

How are HMRC doing against the current service standards? Their latest reports to me show that understandably in such a large and diverse business there are variations in performance. The VAT written enquiries team are currently turning around 95% of correspondence in 15 days, and forms dealing with pensions and benefits are being dealt with well above the department’s service standards.

Repayments are also being turned around promptly. However, there are work areas where HMRC have not been meeting the standards recently and you list these in your letter. In some of those areas improvements have recently been achieved. But the specific examples of delays you quote are unacceptable.

I am assured that HMRC are working hard to improve the position on correspondence. For example, from the middle of 2010, they have directed post to one of five specialist offices.

This specialisation should allow the department to better manage priorities, target resources and give greater consistency of response. And although it is early days, HMRC tell me that performance has improved since the new arrangements were introduced.

The department also advise me that they expect performance in these areas to improve steadily over the summer as the new PAYE system fully settles in.

You will know that HMRC are working closely with local tax agents through the Working Together programme to see how post performance can be strengthened. HMRC want to understand agents’ priorities, where best to focus effort and address specific areas such as those set out in your letter.

We are all keen for the department to meet its service standards across all its major work areas. The profession can help in this and I hope you will continue to work with the department as it strengthens its service.

David Gauke MP

Editorial note

A response to this letter from David Gauke MP will be published in a future issue of Taxation.

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