These happen to be $ signs but the same is true of £s. They just seem to go into an inexplicable sinkhole in London in a system which is poorly run
Some people think that I only get up in the morning just to have a go at Joe Anderson’s Labour controlled Council. To be fair to me they are making so many mistakes these days that this could be a full-time occupation. However, today I have been having a go at HMRC and, in particular, the way that they collect VAT from small businesses. This is all explained in the letter that is attached below but basically relates to their appalling lack of service to the public they are supposed to support.
When my computer went down it took out some pieces of information which I needed to control my financial concerns.
The first of these created a problem with my bank, the national Westminster. This was solved in less than 10 minutes by phone and messaging. The second was with HMRC and relates to my last ever VAT return where no phone number is readily available; the IT systems creak and if you can find a number no-one appears to answer it.
This state of affairs disgraceful. It is a system where good tax payers feel disempowered and resentful and where bad tax payers can seemingly get away with what they want.
If and when I get a response from the permanent Secretary at HMRC I will copy in here so you can see what he has said.
Here is my letter:
Jon Thompson Esq,
100, Parliament Street
23rd. October 2017
Dear Mr Thompson,
Re: Community Business Consultancy
I am sure that it must be useful to someone in a position like yours to get a feedback from time to time about how people trying to use your services run into immense difficulties. The first example I can give is that it is almost impossible to find out the address of the HMRC HQ. In fact, I am not 100% sure that the address on this letter is the correct one and may be relying on someone to forward this to you.
I have been registered for VAT for just short of 20 years with my present registration number and previously for about 10 years with a registration that I gave up when I went to work abroad. During the whole of that time I have never once been late in making my VAT payment.
In September I had a problem with my computer which removed some information from it. This included tow items of financial necessity which related to my bank account and my VAT account.
I stated with my bank account and within ten minutes had my system up and running. I then turned to my VAT account.
I thought I had all the details recorded on paper but clearly did not have as the form for paying my last quarter VAT which ended at the end of August would not load. I looked in vain for a help line that I could ring. I later found one but could not do so the first-time round. So, I filled in an online form which allowed me to get again my Government Gateway number. When 10 days later I got the government gateway number back I found that I had been using the right number. So, it must be the password which was wrong. I find this surprising as I always carefully note down the different passwords I use.
However, I accepted that I must have made a mistake and began to fill in the form to change the password. BUT I was foiled. The form needed the month and year that I had registered for VAT. Frankly, after about 20 years this date was no longer in my memory or records. So, I began the laborious search for a help line. This took me about 20 minutes to find as it is not a number that you want to see used.
Then I rang and rang and rang but on three occasions having waited for 20 minutes got no reply. So, I gave up!
On my return from a short break I found waiting for me form HMRC 03/15. I suspect that this is a form you have never seen but is basically a form demanding that I pay my tax and giving me an assessment of the tax that you think needs paying.
Two things immediately struck me about this form:
- That there was no phone number on it. You would have expected that there would be a help line for people having difficulty in paying for whatever reason. But no the VAT people do not provide assistance.
- The peremptory tone of it. As someone who had never before missed a tax payment of any sort I was being treated almost as a criminal. HMRC can discern by intelligent programming which people pay regularly and which do not. They can be treated differently if HMRC choose to do so. Apparently, you do not.
So, I am left with a situation that the only address I have been given in this process is an address in Southend which I will write to with a copy of this letter and statement of my VAT return in a letter form for them to process. As a matter of interest in this case I do not owe you money but you owe me money!
But I might have a further complication. I have submitted to an office in Grimsby some 3 weeks ago a form for deregistration of my VAT registration as I am effectively retiring from trading life. Needless to say, I have yet to hear from them that this deregistration has been successful. Who knows whether my request has been received or even acted upon.
So, I am left with an overwhelming impression of tardiness; incompetence and a total lack of concern from HMRC for someone who had been a loyal taxpayer and is still a loyal citizen.
As I have explained this matter is of no ongoing concern to me going on as I have ceased to trade. But on behalf of all the small businesses out there I am asking you to look at this particular case and see from it how you might improve your service. Such an improvement will increase and speed up your tax take and prevent hours of wasted time by people in business who need to be devoting their time to their business and not dealing with HMRC incompetence.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE