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Shambles exposed at the Inland Revenue: 'Catalogue of incompetence' laid bare to MPs
10-21-2011, 08:20 PM
Post: #1
Shambles exposed at the Inland Revenue: 'Catalogue of incompetence' laid bare to MPs
HM Revenue & Customs is ‘almost stretched to breaking point’ and is rapidly losing the trust of the country, MPs were told yesterday
It employs badly-trained staff who regularly give out the wrong advice, lose letters or simply do not know what they are talking about, they heard.
Four of the country’s top tax experts laid bare the crisis at HMRC, listing a horrifying catalogue of incompetence.
They said the department’s profound problems are particularly worrying because most people assume that the Government’s tax collectors will get their sums right.
After hearing their evidence, Tory MP Andrew Tyrie said: ‘You have described to us a tax system whose very integrity is at risk.’
Paul Aplin, chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, chronicled the nightmare facing his staff when they have to deal with HMRC.
Since the merger between Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise in 2005, he said tasks which used to take ‘minutes’ take ‘months’.
Mr Aplin, who is also a partner at an accountancy firm in Taunton, Somerset, said: ‘We regularly wait two to three months for a reply to a letter.
‘When you chase, the answer that you regularly get is, “We can’t find the letter”.’

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Two years ago, he said 96 per cent of calls to HMRC were answered within 30 seconds. Today, he said he and his staff waste hours upon hours, day after day, on these calls.
Mr Aplin recently invited a senior HMRC executive to visit the office to witness the problem.
The first call to the tax office was not answered for 12 minutes, and it took a further seven minutes to sort out the basic problem of a wrong tax code.
Referring to his elderly parents, Mr Aplin said: ‘They wouldn’t have a clue if their tax coding was right or wrong, but what they do have is an absolute trust that a Government department would get it right.’

He added: ‘I don’t think it [HMRC] is broken but I think it is stretched almost to breaking point.’
Robin Williamson, of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, revealed examples of staff at HMRC simply giving out the wrong answer.
For example, foster carers can claim child tax credits for their own children, but not their foster children, but they can claim working tax credits for their foster children.
He told MPs on the Treasury sub-committee yesterday that the misinformation triggers a nightmarish ‘bureaucratic battle’ with HMRC.
He also highlighted the anger of many families that it is impossible to call HMRC without using an 0845 number, which costs up to 40p a minute from a mobile phone.
Yesterday HMRC said it is aware of this problem, and is urgently reviewing the system, introduced about a long time ago when most people called from a landline.
Labour MP George Mudie, the committee’s chairman, said he was particularly concerned about ordinary workers and pensioners who do not have access, or cannot afford, professional advice.
He said that if expert accountants struggle to deal with the department, there was little hope for the majority of taxpayers who struggle to understand the complicated system.
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants, said the department has ‘haemorrhaged’ good staff over the past five years.
He said many tax experts in their 50s ‘with a good knowledge base’ have left, replaced by people who have a limited knowledge of the tax system and who are badly trained.
Yesterday’s meeting was held as part of the Treasury sub-committee’s investigation into the ‘administration and effectiveness of HMRC.’
An HMRC spokesman said: ‘We are determined to improve those areas of our business that are currently not delivering the quality of service to which we aspire.’

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