HMRC fails to answer 18 million calls, then bill us to fix their failings

HMRC, it has been reported today, fails to pick up the phone to one in four people. Last year alone almost 18 million phone calls have gone unanswered.

Meanwhile, earlier this year almost 900,000 people faced £100 fines for failing to file their tax return on time. A failure to perform a basic customer service function – answering people’s calls – is certainly not going to improve this figure.

If a business, perhaps one of the large supermarkets, acted in such a way their reputation would be trashed, they would lose customers and they would risk going out of business.

Lin Homer, HMRC’s Chief Executive, said that “call performance hasn’t been up to scratch”.

Fortunately, there is a plan to solve the problem. In a textbook government move they are going to throw money at it until it goes away. £45 million has been diverted to fix the chaos and the lion’s share has gone towards the hiring of more staff. For comparison, £45 million would pay the average NHS salary of 1,437 midwives.

The TPA offers a better solution: radically simplify the tax code.

Britain’s finance acts were laid out on over 6,000 pages between 2000 and 2012 and the tax code becomes increasingly complex each year. Unsurprisingly, this leads to confusion and the problems reported today.

The UK should get rid of the myriad loopholes and introduce a single tax on labour of 30 per cent as we recommended in the Single Income Tax. Simplicity would most likely mean that fewer people will need to call HMRC to sort out their problems as well as drastically reducing the opportunity to avoid tax.

Respectively, this would allow HMRC to reduce its manpower making further savings.   

In the meantime, it is scandalous that HMRC has such chronic failings and the bill is, inevitably, being picked up by the taxpayer.  


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