LITRG welcomes the Government’s focus on those who need extra help in a series of measures announced yesterday to strengthen public trust in HMRC.
In his Written Statement, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman, responded to a number of points raised by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee in its report The Powers of HMRC: Treating Taxpayers Fairly. In relation to those who need extra help he said that HMRC will:
- Strengthen the support they provide to taxpayers who need extra help including extending the extra support service to people who may need additional help to deal with HMRC investigations and to help resolve disputes without litigation.
- Continue to work closely with external representatives to understand taxpayers’ needs better, and to improve support for taxpayers.
Victoria Todd, Head of LITRG Team said:
“We welcome the announcement of measures designed to strengthen public trust in HMRC’s operations. HMRC must have the power to administer and enforce the tax system effectively and fairly, but there must also be accessible safeguards which act as natural checks and balances and the circumstances of vulnerable taxpayers must be properly considered.
“Strengthening the support that HMRC provide to taxpayers who need extra help is an important step and having access to specialist advisers during investigations will be helpful for those taxpayers who need extra support. However, it is crucial that unrepresented taxpayers have access to independent advice when they are involved in a dispute with HMRC and therefore this expansion should not attempt to replicate or replace the independent advice offered by the tax charities, Tax Aid and Tax Help for Older People.”
The Minister also said HMRC would be reviewing the content, language and tone of compliance letters to ensure that they are clear, courteous and tailored appropriately to the needs of the taxpayer, including those who need extra help.
Victoria Todd continued:
“Recently, we had sight of a HMRC debt demand letter which did not include any telephone number to contact the relevant team in HMRC. Instead, the taxpayer was expected to find a previous demand letter or look the number up online. For a letter that was designed to encourage contact to repay a debt, this was poorly thought through and, if anything, was likely to discourage contact by creating additional barriers.
“It is especially problematic for those who have limited digital skills or who are digitally excluded and cannot find a phone number online, or people with mental health conditions who may not keep or open previous letters. We are also increasingly concerned about vulnerable taxpayers falling foul of call connection services advertised online, with a recent website enquirer paying £115 for a 32 minute call to HMRC.
“We are happy to share this insight with HMRC and look forward to continuing to work with them on their materials to ensure that unrepresented taxpayers get the support they need.”