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This week's opinion: 15 July 2021

13 July 2021 / Andrew Hubbard
Issue: 4800 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
The so-called golden era has gone for good

My morning walk takes me past the new HMRC building in Nottingham, which is now nearing completion. When it opens it will be the only HMRC office in the East Midlands. 

It brings back memories of my early days in the Revenue, when there were seven tax offices in the city alone plus many more in the other towns in the area, to say nothing of the quite separate offices of Customs and Excise. 

What have we gained and lost by this change of approach? It is tempting to look back to a ‘golden age’ when the local district inspector knew all of the accountants in his (it usually was ‘his’) patch and anybody could drop into the enquiry counter for a chat with a fully trained officer who would sort out all of their tax problems with a cheery smile. 

That certainly did happen, but it would be wrong to forget that it was not always like that. Similarly, I now hear horror stories of HMRC’s basic failures to deal with simple matters but equally in other area, such as online advice, HMRC has made great strides. 

The world has moved on since my time in the Revenue and we are never going to get local tax offices back – they have gone the way of high street electricity board offices. The challenge for the occupants of the new HMRC building will be adapting the best aspects of the old way of doing things into an environment where digital interaction has superseded face-to-face contact. It won’t be easy.

If you do one thing...

Discovery remains a difficult area, even after the Tooth decision. Keith Gordon and I recorded a conversation recently looking at this whole issue and how it will work in a real-time tax system. The recording is available on YouTube – see Do give it a try.

Issue: 4800 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
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