Following an unannounced change to the log-in process to HMRC’s digital services last weekend, the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) urges HMRC to uphold its maxim that “Customers are at the heart of everything HMRC does”.
January is the busiest month for filing self-assessment tax returns1. For taxpayers and their agents, it is the month when it is particularly important that HMRC’s online filing systems work reliably and unobtrusively. So, for some agents who had gone into work over the weekend of 9 and 10 January specifically in order to work on 2014/2015 tax returns due at the end of this month, it was very frustrating that they could not log-in to the HMRC online services using the same links that had been working earlier in the week and which some agents had been using for years. This unwelcome disruption occurred because HMRC changed some of the log-in links without prior announcement.2
Michael Steed, President of the ATT, said:
“Professional agents who assist taxpayers with the filing of their tax returns take an enormous amount of pressure off HMRC’s resources. They ensure that tax returns are correctly completed and filed in accordance with the law and that taxpayers know how much tax they need to pay.
“HMRC has long recognised that January is a particularly hectic time for tax agents and is usually careful not to impose additional burdens over this month. It was, therefore, very disappointing that no-one in the organisation had appreciated that changing the log-in process over a weekend in January without telling anyone was not a good way of demonstrating HMRC’s business plan commitment of ‘putting our customers at the heart of everything we do’3.
“Our members understand that digitalisation of the tax system is a reality. They know that they will have to adopt new practices as HMRC rolls out its Making Tax Digital4 programme and that they will play a key role in helping their clients adjust to the new system. They accept that as part of their professional responsibilities. But in return, they expect HMRC to see things from the perspective of taxpayers and their agents and to appreciate that the department’s online services need to be user-friendly and thoroughly dependable at all times.
“The credibility of HMRC’s Making Tax Digital programme rests on ensuring that their customers and its agents have a very clear understanding of what is required of them and the processes that need to be followed. Own goals like those of the unintended disruption last weekend must be avoided.”
Notes for editors
- 31 January is the deadline for filing tax returns for the previous tax year. Forty two per cent of the 2013/2014 year tax returns that were due for filing in January 2015 were filed in January 2015 itself [Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hmrc-sees-biggest-digital-self-assessment-ever].
- The problem was resolved very promptly on Monday 11 January once ATT and other professional body members had alerted HMRC to the issue.
- Please see pages 27 and 32 of HMRC’s Annual Report and Accounts 2014-15, at link here.
- For a summary of the Making Tax Digital programme, please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-tax-digital