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Can HMRC get any worse?

wow what an interesting week we've had here at TSA Accountants. This is the week that the head of HMRC Jim Harra was crowing about the performance of HMRC during the pandemic whilst most accountants were holding their heads in their hands, wondering if HMRC could get any worse and wondering if they would ever be fit for purpose. Before I share what Mr Harra had to say, this is what happened to us.

1) Authorisation for a client of us was removed weeks ago with no warning. This client wants to arrange a payment plan for everything they owe, but can't unless all VAT returns have been submitted. You've guessed it, can't submit them without being authorised so around and around we go. I was due to be sent a form from HMRC (A generic form, no client information) but this was cancelled without letting the client or us know, because yes, you've guessed it, we aren't authorised.

2) We are urgently trying to resolve to capital gains issues for two clients. These are complex issues that require input from HMRC and so need their technical team. We were assured of a call on the 28th October, and here we are mid November with no return call.

In the meantime this is what Jim Harra had to say: "I’m in awe, frankly, of what my colleagues and our suppliers have achieved". So whilst Jim is on another planet, we'll be desperately trying to resolve the issues highlighted above. Just as a reminder, accountants and agents were given an additional 28 days to file self-assessments. this extension was given after most accountants had filed 90% of their of their self-assessments, having worked exceptional hours including late nights and weekends. Aside from that we have been given no extensions to HMRC filing deadlines. CJRS claims had a short filing deadline for example. VAT and payroll, as well as corporation tax had to be filed on time given the usual filing deadlines.

let's look at HMRC's performance. Currently to move a VAT number from one business to another is an 18 month turnaround time (confirmed by HMRC on Friday the 12th November). Replies to our letters are typically taking 8 months to be opened let alone actioned. As a taxpayer, can you imagine taking 8 months to HMRC? Those who've read my blogs before will know I'm not Harra's biggest fan. The fact that he publicly stated he was proud to be taking over the running of the best HMRC department in the world led me to ask if he was serious or really didn't know how bad and dis-functional an HMRC he was inheriting but this latest comment means for most accountants we can't wait until he's gone.

All of the above goes to highlight how difficult it is to deal with HMRC, particularly when the head is so deluded as to his teams performance, which to be fair most of us would describe as dire. That said there is no alternative other than to deal with HMRC. However, knowing their short-comings and terrible service levels makes us best placed to continue to get things filed and also keep you, our fee paying clients up to date on what to expect. It also keeps us well placed to make sure appeals are submitted with the best chance of success.

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