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Working Together with HM Customs and Excise in Wales

Presentation by HM C& E in Cardiff 9 November 2004
As part of a recent CIOT VAT presentation, which was also attended by members of the ICAEW, ACCA, VPG and IIT, Dave Brutnell, Deputy Head of HM Customs and Excise Business Services, Wales, and Mel Scudamore, Head of Excise & International Trade Services, gave a brief presentation on the Department’s view of the operation of the Working Together initiative in Wales.

Mr Brutnell stressed that the Department sees the initiative as a two-way process. Firstly advisers can provide a route for communication of revised policy and procedures between the Department and traders as an aid to compliance and secondly to provide feedback to the Department. As part of this process attendees were asked to describe what they wanted out of Working Together, their perception of HMC&E and the issues they saw as a barrier to harmonious relationship between advisers and the Department.

The following issues were raised and taken away by Customs for consideration.

  • There seems to a lack of commercial awareness by many members of the Department.
  • While the Website had apparently been upgraded, in effect it was a cosmetic exercise and was not so easy to navigate as the old Website.
  • VAT Audit staff seem to have largely disappeared. There are many fewer control visits than in the past. Furthermore even where visits take place they leave lack of business certainty. Previous visits would have looked at VAT returns but there is no feedback on when compliance appears satisfactory.
  • The Department appears far less helpful on technical enquiries than the Inland Revenue which has an Agents helpline which means that advisers who have a reasonable technical knowledge can avoid having to go in at the bottom but can in effect deal with the relevant policy branches. This results in it being difficult to get specific answers that are not caveated, giving rise to a technical gap between what is required by trader and adviser.
  • Certain officers do not like dealing with agents or advisers, whom they perceive their priority being, or worse, and much prefer to deal with traders direct.
  • The legislation is widely written, making interpretation and definitive compliance difficult at times.
  • The Department’s words and appearance cannot always be taken at face value. HMC&E often portray themselves as customer friendly, when they are not.
  • (HMC&E) lose interest in Insolvent traders but in reality need to be more proactive.

Customs stress that it is important from a Wales context to consider how these areas can be progressed locally. Some will obviously be difficult to pursue at a regional level, but where they can move things forward quickly on a local basis they will. This means that a suggestion at the meeting for a Customs presentation on exports will be progressed early in the New Year.

Customs' main message as they go forward to the new department of HMRC is to get early feedback from all sectors, to ensure their particular interests are given proper consideration as soon as possible. HMC&E will be liaising with their IR regional colleagues to dovetail a process that can deliver those benefits.

If you have any comments on this article or have any other point you wish to raise with HM Customs, I would be pleased to forward it on for you.

Dick Roberts-Thomas
Wales Regional HM C&E Working Together Champion
Roberts-Thomas & Co
Indirect Taxation Advisors.
34 Duffryn Ave
Cardiff, CF23 6LF.
Tel. 02920 761768

Technical Department
020 7235 9381


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