Wednesday, January 13, 2010



I am not a fan of the HMRC Charter – or whoever’s Charter it is. In the interests presumably of clarity, the HMRC press release describes it as HMRC’s new Charter but an HMRC notice of the same day calls it HMRC’s new Customer Charter and HMRC actually head it “Your Charter”.

However there are some interesting bits in it that seem to revolutionise the way HMRC work. For example paragraph 2 says, “We will provide information that helps you understand what you have to do and when you have to do it”. Presumably this means that the ordinary citizen will no longer be expected to know and understand the complicated mass of tax law that we have. Instead he can wait for HMRC to tell him what he has to do. Presumably it also means that when someone calls an HMRC Helpline and the person on the other end of the telephone is not able to help with the particular issue raised they will be transferred to someone who will be able to help. Sadly, I fear not. I suspect it means no more than we will continue to publish masses of information on our website; you probably won’t be able to find what you need because our search engine is not very good (but why not search our site using Google instead); and if you call us we will simply tell you that we have published something and you should look harder.

Paragraph 5 says, “We will make sure that you are dealt with by people who have the right level of expertise”. That will be a welcome change in most cases! At least it will be if HMRC mean what they say. I expect they really mean that they will continue to decide what is the right level of expertise and it’s bad luck for the taxpayer if they get it wrong. To be fair I don’t expect them to have many, if any, staff with the necessary level of expertise to deal with all of the problems of a growing business across the wide range of taxes that exist. But then they shouldn’t undertake what they cannot deliver.

Paragraph 7 is interesting. “We will give you information we hold about you when you ask for it, as long as the law lets us”. I am not aware of any law that forbids HMRC to tell me information that relates to me. I wonder what law they have in mind. All that I can think of is that they may have a duty of confidentiality where information is provided by a third party. But if so, what are they actually promising to tell me? Things that I have already told them? That would be a pointless undertaking. Presumably they are undertaking to tell me things that they have worked out (or guessed) for themselves. There cannot be any confidentiality there. Well at least that will be a big advance over what they have done in the past. They always seem to have worked on the basis of, “We are not going to tell you what we have got (or think we have got) because there might be other things that we don’t know about that you might reveal to us if we simply ask you to review your returns”. I can see the reasoning behind that approach and am a bit surprised if HMRC really intend to abandon it, but I can’t think of anything else that they might mean by the undertaking. I certainly think it will make negotiations with HMRC much easier, and quicker, if they are going to put all of their cards face up on the table (that is what the courts expect taxpayers to do) at the start of an enquiry.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:45 am  
Blogger Jessica Bakolias said...

It is fair to say that it seems in most countries anyone who is not an accountant can get confused with government paperwork. This where hiring someone to look into your PPI Claims can be crucial in recovering what has been lost.

11:53 pm  

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