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Is HMRC Broken?


Is HMRC Broken?

Sara Morris, our Head of Tax, posed this question in the latest edition of Taxation magazine.


Dear Sirs

 I am moved to contact you in sheer frustration with HMRC. Surely I cannot be the only person on this side of the fence at their wits end.

 I run the compliance side of a small practice in Herefordshire and I consider myself to be at the ‘coalface’.

 I cannot get HMRC to deal with anything that is not digitised and even electronic processes are shaky.

I am not an ‘HMRC basher’. I worked for HMRC for 10 years. I know the system is not perfect, but most officers are onside.

I’ve had a lot of dealings with individuals from HMRC since I jumped ship and, apart from the odd one on a crusade, they’ve been very helpful.

 My current beef, is that any process that cannot be handled electronically, does not appear to be happening. I have attempted to set up new partnerships and the paperwork disappears into an abyss.

 I have requested new partnership registrations in April and have heard nothing. I cannot get through on the telephone in a normal working day, so I telephone at 8 am to be told that the request is logged but nothing has happened to it. They will call me back in 4 weeks.

 Corporation tax is as bad: woe betide anyone wanting a refund. Despite being entered on the CT Return, I have to chase it. I cannot get through at any time other than between 8 and 8.30 am and then I am fobbed off. I have never yet been able to use the ‘chat to an advisor online’ because ‘all of our advisors are busy’.

 A client cannot access their postponed VAT account for imports, because the system does not recognise the UTR. He has spent hours on the phone and the various officers, when he eventually connects, cannot resolve it. His postponed VAT account is destined to be forever out of reach. It is he who suggested that HMRC is ‘broken’.

 I have requested a VAT registration online for a farming partnership. It is entirely unremarkable and we’ve had a letter saying ‘HMRC cannot make changes to the VAT account’.

 Basic PAYE Tools is a great piece of software until it isn’t. I’ve seen that it gets corrupted at HMRC’s end. We know what we are submitting, but HMRC are receiving that month and the previous months for 2 out of 4 employees, so the information is duplicated. HMRC either cannot or will not resolve it from their end. We’ve tried different software and it is still happening. They’ve put a stop on issuing demands, but it’s unsatisfactory. Clients want a once and for all resolution, not a woolly ‘ Don’t worry, we won’t try to collect it’.

 Increasingly, contact with HMRC is as soul destroying as trying to push water uphill. It’s not too much to ask that the processes just work. I spend a large proportion of my time fighting with issues that don’t.

I do wonder if working from home, while productive for complex issues, is counterproductive and disjointed for compliance processes.


I’m not an enthusiastic complainer. I prefer to vote with my feet. Sadly, that’s not an option with HMRC.


 I fear for the introduction of more innovations. Please get the existing structure to work first.

 Sara Morris

 Tax Manager

Chris Duckett Ltd