The Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) says the novel idea that tax-enquiry meetings might be held outside of normal office hours merits further consideration. The ATT thinks that there could be benefits for taxpayers, agents and HMRC from taxpayers having the option to arrange a meeting with HMRC outside of business hours.
A recent research report prepared for HMRC1 explores “the potential (for HMRC) for extending their working hours for interventions beyond the standard working week, providing more choice for mid-size businesses, small businesses, individuals and agents acting on behalf of clients”.
‘Interventions’ is HMRC’s collective term for tax enquiries or compliance checks which are carried out to ensure that taxpayers pay the right amount of tax at the right time. Sixty qualitative interviews were conducted by researchers; they were held with both taxpayers and agents to seek views on the idea of contact with HMRC in the course of an intervention (whether as a meeting or a phone call) taking place outside of normal office hours.
The ATT notes that some of the responses in the Report suggest a lack of understanding of how HMRC interventions work and that this may have influenced the views expressed.
Jon Stride, Co-Chair of ATT’s Technical Steering Group, said:
“This is an idea which deserves serious consideration. Those who have experienced an HMRC intervention, whether as a taxpayer or an agent, know how time-consuming and disruptive it can be. Having a lengthy meeting with HMRC in normal business hours can be very inconvenient, especially for a small business. Giving a taxpayer the option of an early morning, evening or even weekend meeting or conference call could be really useful.
“Obviously, practical issues would need to be considered but provided the option between a meeting in normal office hours and a meeting in extended hours would genuinely be with the taxpayer, we would welcome HMRC’s development of the idea.
“Although as the research report notes2 “there was a relatively muted reaction across all agents and customers to the concept”, the fact that “very few write it off as an idea” suggests that it could well be appropriate to pilot test the model and assess its viability.”
Notes for editors
- HMRC published the research report Extended Hours for Compliance Activities on 25 February 2019 – although the report itself is dated August 2018.
- See point 6.1 of the Report’s Conclusions on page 25.