ICAS calls for action on delays in HMRC services
ICAS responds to HMRC delays in agent services.
While HMRC has worked valiantly on the roll-out of coronavirus support schemes, it is becoming increasingly apparent that HMRC’s resources are being overstretched when it comes to routine work.
The impact of multiple demands on HMRC, including leaving the EU, staff absences due to coronavirus, and the ongoing need for SEISS and CJRS delivery are being felt by taxpayers and agents.
Routine delays and new systems
Recent reports from ICAS Members indicate that service delivery levels on routine issues such as VAT registration, obtaining a UTR for the newly self employed, and obtaining tax refunds have fallen to unacceptably low levels.
Compounding the problem, agent access to HMRC via the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL) has been ‘deprioritised’, with waiting times of 40 minutes or more, expected.
Significant problems have also been noted with some new HMRC systems such as the Trust Returns Service and 30-day CGT reporting service. In these latter two cases, basic system design appears to be out of line with the needs of taxpayers and their agents.
A developing saga
While in the initial stages of the pandemic, it was not unreasonable for HMRC to attribute some of the difficulties to temporary reallocation of staff, but this does not explain the persistent low levels of service over the last few years, culminating in what has now become a barrier to normal business.
Representations to HMRC
ICAS has been taking action behind the scenes on these issues for some time through its membership of various HMRC groups and forums (including the Virtual Communications Group (VCG), Joint VAT Consultative Committee (JVCC), Issues Overview Group (IOG), Agent Digital Design Group (ADDAG), and the Representative Bodies Steering Group (RBSG)).
ICAS has initiated contacted with the other Professional Bodies to formally present the issue at the highest level within HMRC, with a view to bringing the matter more widely before government.
ADL case study
Following representation from ICAS and others at the RBSG, HMRC agreed to a bespoke meeting on problems experienced on the ADL.
ICAS made a detailed submission, including over 30 issues based on the representations of Member Firms.
Progress is being made, with changes to HMRC call handling, and follow up proposals to bring about an improved agent service within the coming months.
As regards HMRC, members who have experienced poor service levels are invited to post these issues on the HMRC Agent Forum.
This gives the issue visibility and assists ICAS and the other Professional Bodies in pressing for change. For example, HMRC recently (start of May 2021) indicated that ‘the current processing timescale for VAT registration applications is 56 working days’.
Where Members’ experience differs from such published standards, they are invited to post on the forum and contact ICAS (firstname.lastname@example.org).
ICAS is aware of the difficulties experienced by members across the range of HMRC services and we have initiated contact with other Professional Bodies to raise the matter of poor service standards.
Proper action needs to be taken by HMRC to address this within a limited timeframe.
The topic has now been placed on the agenda of the next meeting (in mid-June) of the Representative Bodies Steering Group, which is the top-level liaison group between the profession and HMRC.
Where Members’ experience poor service which differs from HMRC published standards, they are invited to contact ICAS (email@example.com).