HMRC responds to ICAS on service standards
HMRC has responded to a joint letter from ICAS and other professional bodies raising issues with HMRC service levels and performance of the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL).
HMRC service levels
ICAS, and other professional bodies, continue to receive reports from Members about poor HMRC service levels. Whilst we had seen indications of improvements in reducing some backlogs, overall, many problems persist. Issues raised frequently with the signatories to the joint letter to HMRC included: self-assessment registrations and refunds, correspondence about VAT grouping and the option to tax, section 455 refunds, responses to technical queries, corporation tax post and returns not processed.
Feedback from members also indicates that performance on the ADL appears to be erratic; there are sometimes very long waiting times, and calls can be cut off unexpectedly and promised call backs do not happen.
HMRC response to the joint letter
The joint letter (from ICAS, CIOT, ICAEW and ATT) was sent to Myrtle Lloyd, Director General Customer Services, HMRC on 15 June. HMRC has responded and has posted its response on the agent online forum. Some of the issues were discussed at the meeting of the Representative Bodies Steering Group on 5 July and there will be further discussion at a later meeting.
On performance, HMRC’s response comments:
“In terms of our performance, we made solid progress in 21/22 and this will carry on in 2022/23.
"We aim to answer all calls to the ADL within 10 minutes and our data shows that we rarely exceed this. If any agents are facing specific problems, then I would appreciate a bit more information so that we can investigate what has gone wrong.
"We are reviewing the ADL position, ahead of a bespoke RBSG to discuss this over the next few weeks.
"In terms of our other tax lines, our average call wait times (year-to-date) have fallen by seven minutes between April 2021 to February 2022 and we are continuing to improve these services, by recruiting and training extra staff.
"We have also increased the proportion of correspondence cleared within 15 days by more than 20 percentage points between April 2021 and February 2022. Our overall customer satisfaction has remained above 80 per cent but we know that there are areas we need to renew our focus to make sure our service levels are where they it should be.”
In view of the comments about specific problems with the ADL, we would welcome further feedback from Members about their experience with ADL call answering times – email firstname.lastname@example.org to provide input.
HMRC service dashboard and updated ‘Where’s My Reply’
In addition to flagging issues with service levels and the ADL, the joint letter from the professional bodies also noted delays to the GOV.UK rollout of the HMRC service dashboard and its integration with the ‘Where’s My Reply’ service.
In a helpful development, following the response to the joint letter, the service dashboard has been moved out of the testing phase (when access was via the agent online forum) and is now available on GOV.UK. The improved ‘Where’s My Reply’ is also now available. These tools allow agents and taxpayers to see how long they can expect it to take for HMRC to deal with various types of correspondence, returns, claims etc.
Whilst the increased transparency is welcome, the dashboard shows that in some areas there continue to be significant delays – for example, VAT group registrations and VAT Options to Tax. The dashboard is also not comprehensive – we have received reports from Members about areas not included in the dashboard. ICAS will continue to raise feedback from Members on problems they encounter, at meetings with HMRC and through the agent online forum. Members may wish to consider joining the forum, if they are not already members.
Let us know your views
ICAS responds to many tax calls for evidence and consultations, as well as producing tax policy papers and reports. We also regularly attend meetings with HMRC at which service levels, delays and other issues are discussed, and we raise problems being encountered by Members. We welcome input from Members to inform our work; email email@example.com to share your insights and feedback.