Member focus: Advisers' access to information restricted
IFA member Cyd Smith has some serious concerns about HMRC’s approach to the important work undertaken by tax advisers – she wants communication levels drastically improved. “It feels as if they are restricting advisers’ access to information.”
Where do tax advisers and their clients sit in the grand scheme of things, as far as HM Revenue & Customs is concerned? I really do wonder. There are so many issues my practice has in dealing with the tax authority that it’s hard to know where to start.
One of the main issues is that of communication. HMRC has several different systems running that often don’t seem to show them the same information on a client as what we can see from our end – a problem acknowledged by HMRC themselves.
And then there are communication timescales. They can take months to reply to us, but when they request information it MUST be back to them within a relatively short period, often before the letter is even delivered.
It feels as if they are restricting advisers’ access to information – and that’s a shame, as we’re the ones trying to get things right. We’re the interface between them and taxpayers and trying to get it presented to HMRC properly.
When it comes to speaking to HMRC staff, well, it’s a bit of a lottery. They try and multi-skill them but sometimes you do wonder who you’re talking to. The clients also miss out because of the restrictive paths for communication. Technology is not for everyone and clients ask where they can go to speak to someone without being on hold for a long time. But there’s no longer that direct local contact or, on HMRC’s part, local knowledge.
There are some bright spots. The self-assessment and personal tax helpline for agents are very good… but for other taxes, tax experts get through to the same contact centres as everybody else.
Despite the impression HMRC gives, clients just want to get their tax right and not a lot of people are confident doing it themselves due to the increasing complexity of the system.
It would be nice if HMRC treated us with a commensurate level of respect and helped share information with us to complete what needs to be completed.
Cyd Smith, managing director, Newcastle upon Tyne-based CS Accounting and an IFA fellow