HMRC Enquiry Centres to close

How will your business deal with HMRC Enquiry Centre closures?

Are you one of the two and a half million people who took advantage of the face-to-face help offered in the 281 national HM Revenue & Customs Enquiry Centres last year?

If so, then come 2014, if you have enquiries, you’ll be forced to avail of either telephone or online services to resolve the issues you’re facing.  Irrespective of whether you run a small or a medium sized business, having face-to-face support is occasionally something you thank your lucky stars for.  With HMRC estimating that each visit to their Enquiry Centres costs just over £150, the decision has been made to axe this service, saving an estimated £13million each year.

Thanks to this decision, some 1300 HMRC jobs are on the line, and criticism of the plan is coming through fast and furious.  Although HMRC are quick to point out that the number of people using this service has halved over a 6 year period, there still seems little reason to axe it all together, particularly now, with all the tax and benefit changes that are on the horizon.

The whole tax and benefit system is currently going through a fairly significant period of change and it would seem reasonable to expect that these changes will give rise to enquiries.  With these Enquiries Centres’ doors firmly closed, it would appear that anyone with questions to ask will be forced to sit on the end of a phone, or worse still, rely on being able to track down an accurate and appropriate response online.

Add to this decision, the common view that HMRC already provides dismal customer service and you start to wonder where the whole idea stems from.  With a widely reported 20 million telephone calls reported as currently being left unanswered by HMRC and criticism that calls to their premium rate numbers are costing tax payers a fortune, it’s easy to see why taxpayers are up in arms.

So what might HMRC be planning to do with the funds they save on these Enquiry Centres?  One possible beneficiary of the funds that will be saved is the debt collection sector.  HMRC have of late, been using debt collection agencies to recover unpaid tax.  This of course costs money and coincidentally, the spending on this area of business was £13.4million in 2012, an alarming double the amount invested in 2011, as well as the amount being saved by the axing of this service.  While we all appreciate the need to collect unpaid tax in order to balance the tax books, the cost of this process, together with the questions that have been raised about the tactics employed by some of the less professional of these debt collection agencies have led to skepticism about the whole procedure lisinopril 10 mg tablet.

As a small or medium sized business owner, it would seem reasonable to conclude from all this that your relationship with HMRC on one end of the spectrum is becoming more distant (customer service wise) and yet on the other, you could find yourself victim of the heavy hand of some low end debt collection agency if you fail to make your payments on time.  Not a very pretty picture…so what can you do to avoid problems?

Staying out of the hands of the debt collection agencies should be a relatively straightforward case of either paying your dues on time or coming to an appropriate arrangement with HMRC for late payments.  When it comes to short-circuiting the lack of enquiry support, the only real answer to this is to keep your records up to date and accurate, so your need for HMRC back up will be reduced.  Thereafter, of course there’s always accountants and bookkeepers who should be able to help.

If you are staring at a list of HMRC enquiries and don’t know where to start, why not get in touch and let us help you solve the problem.