In its response to an HMRC consultation,1 the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) calls on the tax authority to commit to a much more focused application of the Charter across its whole operation.
By law, HMRC are required to have a Charter which must include standards of behaviour and values to which HMRC will aspire when dealing with people in the exercise of their functions.2 The Charter is significant because it should set the tone for a government department with almost 65,000 staff working in a wide variety of sections and which impacts the lives of everyone.
In order for the Charter to have a real impact, ATT thinks that each Charter aspiration needs to be considered and applied in relation to every work situation within HMRC.
The Association also thinks that all new policy and system design proposals need to be measured against the yardstick of the Charter.
Jeremy Coker, President of the ATT, said:
“We welcome the open approach which HMRC have adopted during this consultation. Our key concern is that the main outcome will be a change in the Charter wording rather than its use within HMRC.
“If the Charter is ever to achieve its potential, everyone working within HMRC – at whatever level and in whatever role – needs to know its objectives and to think regularly about the relevance of each of its headlines to the way they do their daily work. The Charter should be used to encourage them to step back, remind themselves of those objectives, put themselves in the position of a taxpayer or claimant and consider how each of the Charter aspirations can be applied in their interactions with the public.
“We think that the Charter itself should include a commitment to the provision of ongoing training for all staff on the expectations which the Charter makes of them. We also think that all policy proposals as well as the design of systems should be tested rigorously against the Charter aspirations.
“HMRC are required to report at least every year on the extent to which they have demonstrated the standards of behaviour and values included in the Charter. If HMRC consider that they do not have the levels of staffing and financial resources that are needed to deliver the standards and levels of service promised in the Charter, we believe that they should emphasise that fact. If those resources are not available, it is inevitable that the commitments will not be met.
“We have seen during the current pandemic how quickly HMRC can move when the resources are made available. With the right wording, sufficiently granular application and adequate resources, the Charter could enable HMRC to deliver (in their words) the service and standard of behaviour that customers should expect when interacting with us."
Notes for editors
1. The Consultation on HMRC's Charter was published on 24 February 2020. The submission deadline for responses was extended to 15 August 2020 because of the pandemic. The ATT response to the call for evidence can be found here.
2. Section 16A, Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 stipulates:
“Charter of standards and values
(1) The Commissioners must prepare a Charter.
(2) The Charter must include standards of behaviour and values to which Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs will aspire when dealing with people in the exercise of their functions.
(3) The Commissioners must—
(a) regularly review the Charter, and
(b) publish revisions, or revised versions, of it when they consider it appropriate to do so.
(4) The Commissioners must, at least once every year, make a report reviewing the extent to which Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs have demonstrated the standards of behaviour and values included in the Charter.”