It may come as a surprise to you that the taxman no longer thinks of you as a taxpayer, but as a customer instead.  He seems to think that by calling you a customer he is somehow giving you an improved service.  The problem is that he has no competitors so he is unlikely to lose you as a result of bad service.  All this talk about customer service is just that – talk.  If he was really concerned about customer service he would make it as easy as possible for his “customers” to buy from him.  So what does he do instead: -

He closes offices so you can no longer meet with him.

Where there is an office he makes it very difficult for you to talk face to face.  Instead you have to pick up a phone in the customer service centre to talk to someone.

If you telephone a helpline you have a 40% chance that the phone won’t be answered.  According to a recent report out of 100 million calls over a twelve month period 40 million were not answered.

If you do manage to get through to the automated answering service you are usually kept hanging on, sometimes as much as 20 minutes, if you can bear to wait that long before speaking to someone.

If you are not a tax expert it’s no good relying on his website for information as it is one of the worst sites ever for finding it.

If you write to a tax office and then several weeks later telephone to ask why you haven’t had a reply you are likely to be given the answer that letters received less than three months ago have yet to be opened let alone replied to.

If you have ever tried to complete a tax return using the taxman’s guidance notes you will know how customer centric that isn’t.

The introduction of computer systems is supposed to help the taxman give better customer service but instead we now get: -

  • Coding notices issued for employments that ceased some years ago as well as those for current employments and as a result too much tax is deducted from the current employment.
  • Indiscriminate fines issued without any checks to ensure they are correct.  Here are two examples: -

A subcontractor in the building industry had his gross status withdrawn because he owed an amount of tax.  The subcontractor had, in fact, agreed a payment plan with the taxman but the system is not joined up enough for those who are issuing gross status withdrawal notices to know this.  A written complaint pointing this out resulted in a reply that began “I don’t agree”.  Do you call that customer service?

A contractor had agreed with the taxman that he did not have to submit monthly returns as he had no subcontractors working for him.  Shortly afterward he received 52 envelopes (yes 52!) each with 2 fine notices totalling some £37,000.  So when he pointed out the taxman’s error he got another 52 envelopes withdrawing the fines.  SO IS IT THE COMPUTER SYSTEM OR THE NUT ON THE END OF THE MOUSE THAT’S RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS DEBACLE?

If the taxman doesn’t like the legal rules that have been tried and tested by the courts he rewrites them in his favour.  I’m talking here about his attempt to re-classify subcontractors in the building industry as employees.

The taxman is forever throwing out suggested new legislation for consultation to the various tax and accounting bodies.  Some of this is an outrageous attempt at introducing draconian controls.  I’m sure there are two major reasons for this, firstly to see how much he can get away with and secondly using the tax and accounting bodies means he doesn’t have to pay for good tax advice, HE CAN GET IT FREE!