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Treatment of small firms is poor, says ICAS

08 July 2011
Categories: News , ICAS , NAO , Admin
'Big business gets preferential service from HMRC'

HMRC are giving preferential service to big businesses to the detriment of smaller firms, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS).

The professional body has found that its members feel a high degree of dissatisfaction with the service levels that all but the UK’s largest companies receive. The results show that almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents rated local compliance offices as poor or very poor.

The ICAS’s assistant director of tax, Elspeth Orcharton, claimed the demand on resources created by the taxman’s large business services division has resulted in poorer services for the majority of other firms.

‘HMRC’s operating and staffing systems are simply inadequate to support compliance with what has become one of the most complex self-assessed tax systems in the world. Unaddressed, this will become a threat to public finances and closing the tax gap,’ she added.

Almost half of those polled said they were happy with the technical skills of Revenue staff members who handle phone calls, but first getting to speak to a person within the department who has the appropriate technical knowledge remains a problem.

‘Contact and management systems need to be fit for purpose so that people don’t feel they are being passed from pillar to post,’ remarked Ms Orcharton, whose organisation has more than 21,000 members. ‘Aggressive collection tactics are too often used to pursue tax not actually due, and communications between the different parts of HMRC need to be improved.’

The taxman’s handling of payment collection, debt recovery and ‘time to pay’ arrangements scored low in the ICAS survey, with 60% of respondents rating the department’s debt management and banking arm as poor or very poor.

The findings come in the wake of HMRC’s plan to target smaller businesses with a controversial campaign of record checks – and they were released around the same time as an National Audit Office (NAO) report that shows the Revenue was investigating 2,700 tax disputes with the UK’s biggest businesses, as at 31 March 2011.

The estimated tax under consideration in the issues was estimated at £25.5 billion, notes the NAO document, which is largely complimentary about the department’s processes for resolving disputes with major companies.

Categories: News , ICAS , NAO , Admin
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