HMRC delays are hindering UK growth, accounting body warns
Major hold ups at HMRC are “acting as a drag on the UK’s economic growth,” the head of one of Britain’s top accounting bodies has said.
The “unacceptable” delays, caused by backlogs at the UK’s tax authority, “need to be addressed promptly,” ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza said, as he called for the launch of an emergency taskforce to tackle the issues at HRMC.
The accounting chief’s calls come as taxpayers and accountants have been forced to wait for up to a year for responses from Britain’s tax authority.
Izza explained HMRC plays a “vital function” in supporting UK businesses as he warned “systemic problems” at the tax authority threaten the country’s growth.
The delays come as HMRC has seen its customer service workforce cut by 6,000 people over the past five years, from 25,500 to 19,500.
These staff cuts have seen taxpayers and accountants face up to year long delays in getting responses from the taxman on basic requests such as around registering a new business for VAT.
Izza noted that despite HMRC’s “vital role” in collecting taxes and facilitating business, the agency is “often overlooked and overstretched”.
The trade body chief continued in calling on the UK government to set up an “cross-sector” emergency taskforce to identify the problems causing the hold ups and fix the long-standing delays.
The ICAEW has “long raised concerns about issues at HMRC, where there are a number of long-term systemic problems to be fixed, including poor design of IT systems and gaps in services online,” Izza said.
In a letter to the Treasury, the trade body called on ministers to overhaul HMRC as it argued “poor public services are an obstacle to economic development as well as making all our lives more difficult”.
The ICAEW said a “strategy is needed to deliver high quality public services” as it called for investment in new technology to improve service quality and cut costs.
An HMRC spokesperson said: “We are responding to around three-quarters of correspondence within 15 working days and successfully answering about 70,000 calls a day.”
“Our customer satisfaction is consistently around 80 per cent,” the HMRC spokesperson continued.
“We’re continuing to improve and expand our digital services, so more customers can answer their queries online and our advisers can focus on supporting customers who require one-to-one support.”