Speaking at his inauguration as President of the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), at the ATT’s ‘virtual’ AGM today (Thursday), David Bradshaw has issued a plea to the Government not to cut HMRC staff levels until HMRC have improved its customer service to frustrated taxpayers and their tax advisers.
ATT is a charity and the leading professional body for those providing UK tax compliance services. David Bradshaw is the ATT’s new President, with Simon Groom as Deputy President and Senga Prior as Vice-President. The ATT also used the AGM to thank outgoing ATT President Richard Todd for helping it manage and then evolve through the pandemic.
David Bradshaw’s comments in his speech are after an HMRC dashboard went ‘live’ recently for tax advisers to check current processing times and service levels for post and online requests. The dashboard vindicated concerns from ATT members by showing significant delays in many areas, for example R40s, VAT group registrations and paper self-assessment registrations.1 They come at the same time as concerns about planned civil service job cuts, although the Government has not yet said where the cuts will be made.2
Focusing on imminent changes in the tax system, David Bradshaw said in his speech:
“You will all know from experience that HMRC have faced their own challenges during covid, and we receive a lot of feedback from members raising concerns. This leads me to worry whether HMRC are sufficiently resourced to deliver these two major projects [Making Tax Digital and basis period changes] and support taxpayers and their agents through the transition to digital record keeping and quarterly reporting on top of their existing workloads.
“Given the significant changes that are coming, the demands on HMRC for support and guidance will only increase over the next couple of years, and it is hard to see how any significant changes to the tax system can happen effectively unless HMRC have appropriate resourcing. It is deeply concerning therefore, to hear talk of potential cuts to staff numbers. Given HMRC’s current performance issues, we should not have cuts made to HMRC staffing until performance is first restored and then maintained at high levels. I do not see this as special pleading. The public and the Exchequer both benefit from effective and efficient tax administration.”
Specifically on Making Tax Digital for Income Tax, David Bradshaw said:
“The Government could take a more pragmatic approach to the challenges of Making Tax Digital (MTD) and basis period reform and consider a more phased approach. A good starting point could be to revisit the level at which businesses are brought into the complexities of MTD for Income Tax – the astonishingly low annual turnover threshold of just £10,000. Think about that for a moment. If that is the only or main source of income for someone who is self-employed, their gross income even before any expenses is likely to be way below the National Living Wage. Wouldn’t it at least make more sense to require more financially secure businesses to be the guinea pigs for MTD and then extend its ambit once the system was running smoothly?
“I am pleased to see the start of a series of regular meetings [between professional bodies such as ATT and HMRC] specifically focused on the issues faced by smaller practices, who will feel acutely the additional workload these measures will create as they seek to support their clients through these changes.”
Turning to access to HMRC’s online systems, David Bradshaw added:
“Pressures on HMRC’s own resources could also be significantly reduced if the concept of HMRC’s single digital account was exploited to its full potential. Previous rounds of spending cuts have seen development halted so the existing Personal and Business Tax Accounts lack essential DIY functions. That means that taxpayers must contact HMRC unnecessarily – absorbing HMRC’s scarce resources. The promise that agents would be able to see and do what their clients can see and do was renewed in 2020 but we have seen little evidence of it.”
Praising the work of the ATT in his valedictory speech, outgoing ATT President Richard Todd said:
“In November last year, we proactively sent HMRC a discussion document that posed the question, ‘When is a nudge not a (statutory) prompt?’ It made the case for a detailed review of how HMRC’s increasing reliance on ‘One-to-many’ nudge-type communications sat with the distinction made in penalty legislation as between prompted and unprompted disclosures. HMRC have embarked on a wide-ranging review, which encompasses consideration of the legal framework and definitions, guidance, communications and impacts - intended or otherwise - relating to such nudge type interventions. It is too early to know how this will all work out. But it is good to know that the ATT planted the acorn from which this sapling oak is emerging.”
Notes for editors
1. ATT article: HMRC Performance - new dashboard goes live – 29 June 2022
The Times newspaper reported on this new dashboard in Tax chaos: a 10-month wait to sort out your bill (9 July 2022).
New analysis by the TUC reveals that plans by Boris Johnson’s government to cut 91,000 civil service jobs will be deeper than deepest point of George Osborne’s programme of cuts in the last decade. The analysis looks at civil service staffing levels relative to the UK population. And it finds that if the proposed cuts go ahead the number of civil servants relative to UK people will fall below the lowest point while David Cameron was Prime Minster and Osborne Chancellor.
In a 9 June 2022 press release, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) wrote: “In the wake of the government’s announcement of its plans to cut 91,000 civil service jobs, when PCS met the Cabinet Office last month, we were told that each department would be tasked with producing plans to cuts between 20-30 per cent of their workforce. What we now know is that departments have actually been told that they need to produce plans for up to 40% job cuts, based on their March 2022 headcount; and they have until 1 July (just over three weeks from now) to complete those plans and submit them to the Cabinet Office. 40 per cent job cuts would mean more than 27,500 members of staff in HMRC losing their jobs. Even at the least worst option called for by the government, 20 per cent, it would still mean almost 14,000 HMRC members of staff thrown on to the scrap heap.”
David joined ATT Council in 2015. He is the Association's new President. He is a member of Finance Steering Group and serves on the Joint Branches Sub-Committee. At various intervals over the past 15 years David has been Chair, Treasurer and Secretary of the North East England Branch and chair of Finance Steering Group. He became a member of the Association in 2015 and qualified as a Chartered Tax Adviser in 1984. He has spent time with all four of the world’s largest accountancy practices and has specialised in taxation in both the SME marketplace and large corporate tax departments. He now provides corporation tax administration services to a number of North East businesses.
Simon joined ATT Council in 2018 and is the Association's new Deputy President. He serves on Finance Steering Group and is a former member of Business Development and Member Steering Groups and Audit Committee. He became a member of the Association in 2003. Simon qualified as a chartered accountant in 1987 and as a Chartered Tax Adviser in 1991. He has spent many years training students for the ATT and CTA examinations and is Director of Tolley Learning at LexisNexis.
Senga joined ATT Council in 2017. She chairs Technical Steering Group. Senga is ATT’s spokesperson for Scottish taxes. She also represents ATT at the Scottish Devolved Taxes Collaborative and attends quarterly meetings between ATT, CIOT, ICAS and the Scottish Government. Senga became a member of the Association in 2002 and a Fellow in 2017. She works in practice as a senior tax manager for Johnston Carmichael specialising in personal tax. She has a particular interest in technology and accounting software.
Richard joined ATT Council in 2013. He was the Association's President (2021 - 2022). He is a former chair of the Joint Professional Standards Committee and of Northern Ireland Branch. Richard became a member of the Association in 1996 and qualified as a Chartered Tax Adviser in 1998. He began his tax career with the Inland Revenue in London and Central Scotland, before returning to Northern Ireland in 1998. He currently works in practice in Belfast.
4. For a photograph of David Bradshaw contact HVerma [at] ciot.org.uk (subject: David%20Bradshaw) (Hamant Verma)