HMRC’s new Charter should improve taxpayer experience
HMRC launched its new Charter in November 2020 – Susan Cattell looks at how this should improve taxpayers’ and agents’ experience of dealing with HMRC and enhance confidence in the tax system.
What is the HMRC Charter?
Finance Act 2009 introduced a requirement for HMRC to publish a Charter which must include “standards of behaviour and values to which HMRC will aspire when dealing with people in the exercise of their functions”. HMRC is also required to regularly update the Charter and publish revisions, or revised versions, when it considers it appropriate to do so.
The old version of the Charter was not widely publicised to taxpayers or agents – and was not perceived as being very useful in holding HMRC to account for its performance. The new version – launched in November 2020 – has the potential to improve experience of dealing with HMRC and to enhance confidence in the tax system.
The new Charter
ICAS submitted a response to the consultation on the draft version of HMRC’s new Charter. Our view was that if the Charter is to assist taxpayers, it must set out clear commitments to the standards of service HMRC will provide and how it will be measured against these commitments. It should make clear what taxpayers can do when things go wrong. We also raised concerns about important omissions from the draft version.
The consultation process was extended due to coronavirus and proved to be very constructive; several of the main ICAS concerns about the draft have been addressed in the final version. There are now clear commitments on core aspects of HMRC’s service, which are critical for taxpayers - ‘Making things easy’, ‘Getting things right’ and ‘Being responsive’ – replacing the aspirations of the draft version. Commitments from the old version of the Charter, on minimising taxpayer costs and access to the right HMRC expertise, have been reinstated (having been dropped from the draft). The taxpayer’s right to use an agent is also explicitly recognised.
What is HMRC doing to implement the new Charter?
The new Charter will not be effective without action from HMRC to ensure that its staff are aware of the standards and take them seriously when dealing with taxpayers. Communicating to taxpayers is also vital and we hope to see better signposting from HMRC pages in GOV.UK and in HMRC communications.
We welcome HMRC’s ambitious plans to ensure that the Charter standards are embedded across its employees in all its business areas and are reflected in dealings with taxpayers and agents. The plans include:
- Face to face and online training for policy teams.
- Improved written communications to taxpayers.
- Rollout of compliance professional standards aligned with the Charter, to compliance teams.
- Development of training in complaints handling.
- Over the coming months we hope to see a positive impact for taxpayers and agents, as the training is rolled out.
Annual Charter report
HMRC is required to make an annual report reviewing the extent to which it has demonstrated the standards of behaviour and values included in the Charter. Alongside publication of the new Charter, the annual report for 2019-20 was also published – based on the standards set out in the old Charter.
We were pleased that for the first time the report included direct feedback from contributors outside HMRC – the Adjudicator and the new Charter Stakeholder group (representing the tax community). Inclusion of external input provided a useful perspective on areas where HMRC is doing well and those where improvement is needed. The commitment on agents was identified as one where there is a large gap between the commitment and HMRC’s actual performance.
The annual report currently relies extensively on feedback from annual taxpayer surveys. In future we would like to see the publication of additional data and analysis which would allow more detailed measurement of HMRC’s performance. Our response to the Charter consultation and a separate response to a consultation on data and transparency included some suggestions.
The Charter Stakeholder group
The group is made up of representatives of the tax community, including ICAS, ICAEW and the CIOT. It was originally intended to be a temporary part of the consultation process for the new Charter – but we are pleased that it has now been put on a longer term footing to provide ongoing input.
Meetings to date have involved constructive discussions about the new Charter and the group contribution to the 2019-20 annual report. Future meetings will look at progress in rolling out the new Charter across HMRC and how this is being reflected in taxpayer and agent experience of dealing with HMRC.
ICAS needs your input
The new Charter represents a real opportunity to improve taxpayers’ and agents’ experience of dealing with HMRC and to enhance confidence in the tax system. HMRC’s rollout is currently at an early stage but over the coming months we need feedback from members about progress and how HMRC are performing against the new standards.
Please send us your feedback by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.