14:52 PM, 27th October 2010, About 12 years ago
Tax code bungles and other IT disasters at HM Revenue and Customs have led to thousands of workers redeployed for working on ‘higher priority cases’.
HMRC has already announced that filing forms authorising advisers to speak to tax inspectors as client agents are backed up until at least October 31, which is also the last submission date for paper self-assessment returns.
Other services like registering a new business and requesting a reference number for filing tax returns online are also under pressure and take weeks to come through.
Anyone who does not have a 10-digit UTR or unique tax reference number cannot file a tax return online. Receiving the code could take several weeks that may bring the January 31 deadline back to the end of November.
For taxpayers, the best advice is to start preparing this year’s accounts and self-assessment returns for filing as soon as possible to avoid delay and computer failures.
“HMRC strongly encourage you to use online agent authorisation if possible, as online processing will not be affected,” said a spokesman. “However, please don’t use the online process to set up a client authorisation if you’ve already submitted a form 64-8 for the same client. This will cause problems with HMRC systems and may delay the authorisation process further.
“If you are applying on paper, HMRC will continue to prioritise authorisations for Self Assessment as agents have said that these are the most important.”
Tax offices are also drowning in paperwork leaving letters received as long ago as June unanswered.
HMRC has admitted their systems are creaking under the strain of 6 million open files from previous tax years – and the worst may be yet to come as the agency struggles to make budget cuts as part of the government’s spending savings.
All this adds up to a nightmare scenario for a tax service that was already buckling under handling a normal workload due to staff shortages, office closures, low morale, and an ineffective computer system.
A change of working also means agents and advisers cannot talk directly with tax offices, loading even more delays in to the tax system.
Tax offices had adviser lines until the system changed last year. Now, HMRC has a dedicated call centre for advisers – but the call centre can only forward emails to a tax office and direct numbers are not published.
This means simple queries and messages now go through at least one extra layer of handling and take days to answer instead of minutes.
If you would like further advice on tax or accountancy please call The Money Centre’s Customer Care Team on 01603 894525 and we will be delighted to refer you to our Joint Venture Tax Partners who specialise in property taxation. The initial introduction is a no cost no obligation service.