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Sunday, November 08, 2015

HMRC need to shape up if they are to collect Welsh taxes

With the Welsh Government due to take control of landfill tax and stamp duty after the Assembly elections, it is right that the Minister has decided that for the first few years at least, continuity is the right way forward in collecting those taxes. However, her decision to allow HMRC to maintain their current role must be subject to review and must be contingent on an improved performance from that agency.

In this respect, revelations in the Telegraph that millions of letters sent to HMRC by Britons concerned about their tax affairs are going unanswered for more than three weeks, does not instil confidence that they will be able to provide the bespoke Welsh service that we all expect.

The paper says that last year almost a third of post sent to the taxman was not responded to within 15 working days. That is a worse success rate than at any time in the last three years:

The problems have surfaced after a group of MPs criticised the taxman's "worse" than "abysmal" telephone customer service and demanded a series of improvements.

A report by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee [PAC] published this week said it was “unacceptable” that during the first half of 2015 just half of all calls to the taxman were answered.

However The Telegraph has found that HMRC is also increasingly failing to reply to millions of letters on time in further signs of its struggling customer service.

Some 30 per cent of letters sent to HMRC in 2014/15 failed to get a response within 15 working days – the taxman’s target – in what was the worst performance in three years.

With around 15 million pieces of mail being sent to HMRC every year, it means more than 4 million letters went unanswered for three weeks – and possibly much longer.

The two taxes due to be devolved to Wales are administered from Birmingham. Apart from a small office in North Wales there is no bespoke Welsh service, nor one available through the Welsh language. The Minister needs to insist that this is corrected and that as far as the Welsh Government is concerned, strict service standards are adhered to.
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