HMRC outlines transformation plans at annual stakeholder conference
Susan Cattell, ICAS Head of Taxation, England and Wales, reports on HMRC's ambitious plans, following the organisation's annual stakeholder conference.
ICAS tax team representatives attended this year's HMRC stakeholder conference on 16 July 2015, along with representatives from other professional bodies and other stakeholders.
David Gauke MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, started the morning by talking about some of the key planks of the government's tax strategy: stamping out evasion and avoidance and creating a modern, efficient tax system. His speech is now available to view.
The rest of the conference provided an opportunity to hear from senior HMRC executives about their ambitious plans for transforming compliance and customer service and gave stakeholders an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback.
On compliance, HMRC is telling all of its staff that it is their responsibility. The conference saw a staff video about the Promote, Prevent and Respond initiative. A key aim is to support and promote voluntary tax compliance. Contrary to the impression created by some press coverage of tax avoidance by a few high profile individuals, voluntary compliance in the UK is very high and HMRC want to maintain this.
However, HMRC also talked about its Connect smart data system, which is used to help it identify and crackdown on evasion and the hidden economy. The hidden economy is sometimes linked to other types of crime, like slavery or smuggling, so HMRC then work with other agencies.
Customer service improvements
HMRC acknowledged that there had been some problems with customer service recently and these are being tackled with 3000 staff allocated to help. All inbound and outbound mail is now being scanned so when customers ring an HMRC call centre all the information should be visible. HMRC is also using social media to communicate with customers and has been testing online chat. Apparently, seven out of 10 customers who used Twitter for queries liked the experience.
Digital personal tax accounts
Following the announcement of the imminent death of the tax return, the ambitious new digital personal tax account is now live in test mode and was on display during the coffee break. Once complete and launched it should allow individuals to log in when they choose and to see all their tax information in one place. Ultimately HMRC hopes to be able to pre-populate it with information on income received like salary or savings interest – which individuals will need to check and will be able to amend.
The morning ended with breakout sessions, which enabled stakeholders to discuss key areas with HMRC and give input on HMRC's plans.