HMRC blasted for taking over THREE years to deal with basic enquiry

HMRC have increased the interest rates payable by taxpayers on late payments, to 7.75% - up from 7.5%, the highest interest charge on late payments since ca. 2001.

A leading accountant has labelled HMRC as ‘dead in the water’ – after receiving a response to an enquiry submitted in 2020 more than three years later

JF Hornby & Co requested a simple administrative change be made to one of their client’s accounts on January 13, 2020.

Almost three-and-a-half years later – on June 20, 2023 – HMRC finally got around to responding, saying they could not complete the request.

Tom Southward, a partner at JF Hornby & Co which is based in Ulverston, Cumbria, said: “The troubles at HMRC are well documented and we are used to dealing with incompetence, unanswered calls and long lead times for an answer to even the most basic of questions.

“But three-and-a-half years really does take the biscuit; we could hardly believe it when our client received the letter. HMRC is on its knees; if it were a building it would be dilapidated with a family of pigeons living inside. Something needs to happen because the services provided by this government department are vital for businesses trying to navigate a tricky economy.”

HMRC was recently described as ‘disastrously understaffed’ by an inside source.

Their damning assessment of the under-fire service came amid a row about the much-maligned ‘seasonal’ closure of the self-assessment helpline from June 12 until September – a move which sparked particular dismay among business owners who needed to send their quarterly tax return by 31 July.

A leading accountant has labelled HMRC as ‘dead in the water’ - after receiving a response to an enquiry submitted in 2020 more than three years later

Earlier this year, HMRC was grilled by the Treasury Committee amid claims that taxpayers calling its helpline were kept on hold for hours before being cut off without speaking to staff.

The Committee asked whether HMRC recognised these reports, what steps had been taken to prevent such issues, and whether the delays were linked to call centre staff working from home.

In response, HMRC admitted that the average wait time for its Self Assessment helpline in January 23 was 27 minutes, compared with 12 minutes the previous year and suggested that if taxpayers were to use online services rather than calling the helpline, waiting times would fall.

Tom said: “The system is fundamentally broken. HMRC is on its last legs and my advice would be do not resuscitate. We need a modern, fit-for-purpose service that is equipped to cater to the needs of the public and professional services dealing with enquiries on their behalf.

“It’s difficult to see how the present situation can be turned around. Simply telling people to go online instead of using the helpline isn’t the way forward.

“We need intervention and a plan from the very top of government to ensure these fundamental services are brought back on track.”

HMRC were contacted for a response.