HMRC – why oh why?

The following are two of my current gripes with HMRC and their systems.

1. Online forms

In many areas, HMRC has moved with the digital times such that taxpayers and their advisers can now complete HMRC forms online for submission.

HMRCThe big disadvantage of HMRC’s approach is that a partially completed form cannot be saved for completion later once any outstanding information has been obtained. In addition, there is often no way of knowing what information may be required to complete a form because the whole form is only reviewable once completed.

Take as an example the SEIS/EIS advance assurance form. As a tax practitioner, I may not have all the information from a client to enable me to complete the form online. Indeed, the client may wish to see the form before it is submitted. Rather (un)helpfully HMRC state that the form can be printed for review when it has been completed. Once it is complete the form must be scanned for submission, by way of e-mail, to HMRC – where is the logic in that? What prevents HMRC from creating a routine which allows forms to be saved, perhaps for a finite period, for later finalisation. I can save, and return to, a partially completed personal income tax return, so why not other forms?!

Taxpayer advice: Before attempting to complete any HMRC forms online make sure that you gather together all the information you need and be prepared for frustration when you realise that you have one minor bit of information missing!

2. 30-day reporting of a property capital gains

With the sale of residential property, a return now needs to be made to HMRC, and any tax due paid, within 30 days of completion.

The return must be made using HMRC’s online Capital Gains Tax UK property disposal portal. Finding this portal is a challenge!

When you have done so you will be asked to supply your online HMRC gateway filing credentials to access the service. If you do not have a gateway ID and password, you will have to create one.

Many taxpayers have no idea whether they have a HMRC gateway account never mind what their ID and password might be, and they may be uncomfortable creating one.

If HMRC is intent on the digital route for reporting why not simply have a portal that requests name, address, and National Insurance number or UTR as the identification detail followed by all the property disposal detail?! I accept that HMRC may be trying to populate a taxpayer’s account to save administration time, but HMRC fails to realise that the vast majority of taxpayers have no need, or desire, to engage with HMRC especially for a tax event which may be a one-off for them.

Taxpayer advice: If you are disposing of property you should: marshal all the facts promptly, talk to your accountant, if you have one, as soon as possible, make sure that your conveyancing lawyer is kept up to date with progress and be prepared for a few anxious moments as tax calculations may be low on your list of priorities when moving house.

On the plus side

During these unusual times I have had need to speak to HMRC on several occasions.

The opening voicemail message warns the caller that HMRC staff are now working from home on restricted hours and that there may be some background noise during the call. The message also indicates that the ‘waiting on hold’ time might be a little longer than normal.

On each occasion, I managed to speak to someone within minutes – a vast improvement on the ‘normal’ waiting times. The individuals I spoke to were very polite and helpful in dealing with my questions and resolving my issues very efficiently.

Well done HMRC!!

Simon Littlejohns
SLJ Accountants Limited
17 July 2020