HMRC Customer Service: A progress report

In July the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee issued a highly critical report into customer experience of dealing with HMRC. In response to the report the ATT together with the other main Professional Bodies offered to work with HMRC in an attempt to improve services to all taxpayers. HMRC have embraced this and since then we have been working with them on a number of initiatives. A joint press release was issued on 19 December 2011 regarding progress to date.

A copy of the joint press release is set out below, but can also be found on the HMRC website at:

I am very pleased with the progress which has been made in such a short space of time and thank everyone who has volunteered to share their experiences. We will continue to represent the interests of our members and the public at large as this initiative continues into 2012.

Can I take this opportunity to wish all members a happy and peaceful Christmas and look forward to meeting as many of you as possible during my year in office. 

Stuart McKinnon
ATT President


Joint Initiative on HMRC service delivery


In September 2011 HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC's) Chairman Mike Clasper hosted a meeting in response to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee's recommendation that HMRC should work closely with the professional bodies, tax charities and businesses to improve the end-to-end experience of dealing with HMRC.

Representatives from: the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the Association of Accounting Technicians, the Association of Taxation Technicians, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, Tax Aid, and Tax Help for Older People attended.

We agreed at that meeting that, as a first stage, we should jointly take forward three areas of work:

  • Looking at post processing and handling in detail to establish where problems exist and how they can be resolved. This included reviewing HMRC's performance measures to ensure that they are credible and effective. Non-SA repayment claims, automated PAYE coding notices and practical issues relating to deceased estates were also to be reviewed.
  • A number of agents and charity representatives should spend time with HMRC's front line service delivery teams to look at processes in detail from a customer perspective.
  • HMRC should carry out structured visits to the offices of a number of practitioners and charities to gain an in-depth understanding of service delivery.

We agreed to take forward these areas of work starting on 3 October 2011, with a review of progress by 30 November 2011. HMRC, the representative bodies (with the addition of the Institute of Indirect Taxation) and tax charities have now held the scheduled interim review meeting.


The project began on 3 October 2011 and a joint steering group monitored progress weekly to ensure that momentum was maintained. Current and recent service delivery related projects (both internal and involving external stakeholders) were identified first to avoid duplication of effort and to capitalise on existing work. A joint group was set up to look at coding issues and the Working Together Post Working Group took on the post and repayment aspects. The tax charities, working with HMRC staff, took on the bereavement related strands of work.

We agreed protocols for the visits by HMRC staff and a call was made by the professional bodies for agent volunteers to participate in the initiative. Around 90 agent firms agreed to take part and so far HMRC staff have made 31 visits. 23 agents have visited HMRC offices with further visits scheduled. A number of joint workshops and meetings complemented the visits to add to the evidence collected.

The scale of activity and cooperation between HMRC and the bodies involved over such a short period is unprecedented.


By 31 March 2012 HMRC have committed to:

  • Working together to find ways of avoiding employers incurring and building up end of year filing penalties without being aware of them.
  • Launching an email pilot to a select number of agents to give a detailed understanding of the benefits, its wider application and fit with the Agent strategy, building on the work already done by the Working Together Team.
  • Working together to identify and develop more effective communication of HMRC changes and initiatives with front line agents.
  • Improving the processing of forms 64-8. This will include a review of the end-to-end process, starting at the agent's office and the type of form used, through to where the forms are sent to, and how quickly they reach the correct destination for processing.
  • Identifying the root cause of agents frustrations with HMRC telephone services and work together on the solutions.

We identified around 20 further specific issues for action by 31 March, 30 June and 30 September 2012. These include working together to ensure that incoming post is channelled more effectively, creating a tool to enable agents to ascertain expected response times, improving the exchange of information on pensions between HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions, exploring options for faster repayments, creating a single point of contact within HMRC for Self Assessment and PAYE aspects of bereavement cases, working with the voluntary sector on improving published guidance on bereavement cases and establish some mutually agreed performance measures.

We will work jointly on those issues to see both how HMRC can improve and streamline its processes and what agents need to do to ensure they run as smoothly as possible. It has emerged from the programme of visits for example that many agents are unaware of recent changes to HMRC addresses and PO Box numbers and that using out of date addresses is a factor in some post delays; another finding is that agents could help HMRC to process some items more quickly by making the nature of the letter, complaint or query clear in a heading. On coding we have discovered that some agents are unaware of the facility to prevent coding out of other income by ticking the box on page 5 of the tax return. We will jointly publicise ways in which agents can help HMRC to process information more effectively and efficiently.

We will continue to analyse the information from the visits, agree actions and formulate appropriate performance measures, conducting further visits as necessary.

HMRC, the professional bodies and tax charities will meet again around the end of March, June and September 2012 to review progress and will continue in the interim to analyse and act on the data gathered. It is intended that further interim reports will be made at each of these stages. The steering group will speak at least monthly to ensure that momentum is maintained.


Technical Team

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