HM Revenues and Customs' sprawling online tax systems are not up to the job and small biz folk are paying the price, says the Forum of Private Business (FPB). Talking in the wake of Treasury's sub-committee critical report into the administration and effectiveness of HMRC, the FPB reckons red tape is strangling small business …
"Late monthly PAYE payments now attract penalties..."
I'm going to say "good" on this one as I work for a small business and have found documentation such as payslips to be persistently late.
Is there anyone out there who still thinks...
that HMRC is there to serve the British public?
Never had a problem
Online filing for everything has always just worked for me. Unless you happen to be submitting stuff at the very last minute, in which case you'll join the other zillion muppets in trying to get time on an overloaded server. I'm quite happy that they're buying servers based on reasonable demand and not on exceptional peaks, so no worries there.
actually tried to help the tax-paying
It is going to take a long time to undo NuLabs expansion of the state and attitude adjustment. They and their servant still think we are here to serve them not the other way round.
NHS, local councils. HMRC all the same.
The other day I needed to identify which of several trees are protected by preservation orders. The orders are public documents and the public have a right to see them. After waiting 30 minutes on the phone I get to talk to a bloke who is looking at the order on his screen but can't describe it well enough. I ask can you email or fax just the map to me? No. I have to call 'customer' services to give them 24 hours notice of my wish to view the document and they will make it available for viewing at their offices and apparently I can pay a quid a page to make a photocopy, or hearing a tip from someone else they won't stop me photographing it if I take a camera with me.
So I'll waste a couple of hours and a gallon of petrol because they won't email a couple of pages of an already comupterised document. Imagine a company providing that kind of service - they would be out of business in weeks. .
"...No. I have to call 'customer' services to give them 24 hours notice of my wish to view the document and they will make it available for viewing at their offices...
When you get to see it, will it be the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in
a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of The Leopard"?
They seem very efficient to me. Constantly emailing me, to inform me that I have a tax refund pending. Their process seems all very simple. All I needed to do is click on their url link and fill out my details. Though, saying that, I haven't had my refund yet!
Tax law is too complex
Socialists, do-gooders, labourites nu and ol', nanny-staters, and bolsheviks all fail to realize that the tax system is too important to be abused in the pursuit of airy-fairy social goals.
When tax law reaches a certain level of complexity, no one can understand it, no one can figure out what tax they owe or refunds they are owed, and the whole operation starts to list to one side under the load. Moreover, with complexity comes a distinct risk of internal contradictions, in which case it's impossible to make sense of the law. Thus law abiding citizens are actively blocked from fulfilling one of their primary duties: to pay tax.
A further difficulty: when social goals are pursued via a tax system rife with various exemptions and such, it can become extremely difficult to determine the cost of such pursuit.
Far better: keep tax law as simple as humanly possible, and if social goals are desirable, issue payments that show up on the government's balance sheet.
Where's the IT angle?
@RW, most of what you say is true... but misses an excellent opportunity to indulge in a bit of revenue bashing that _does_ have an IT link. They have a computer which sends threatening letters to people who owe no tax; which estimates liabilities for this year's April PAYE based on last years April payment even though it knows you shut the scheme in between times; which needs PAYE payment references that some banks BACs systems simply cannot communicate; which churned out months of invalid penalties because no-one updated the name of the Area Director on the forms... OK, some of that is GIGO based rather than system failure, but they have sacked vast numbers of staff on the assumption that they'll get huge efficiencies from using computers; all they've got so far is one system that works (NPS) and all that has told them is that their data is appalling & requires massive (human based) cleansing - which they have neither the staff nor the time for with the looming car crash that will be RTI. Now I'm digressing though; HMRC & SMEs:
Small Biz is supposed to be getting OneClick as a slick new user interface where they can register for new taxes (VAT in 20 minutes, not 50 days, for a simple case), and check the position on their existing ones, all in one go. Shortcomings in the back end mean it won't do everything we would want it to; short comings in implementation/program design mean that some essential features aren't even in the design specs. Keep an eye out on the Revenue website for Consultations on any of this stuff; they need the help... AC cos I work on this stuff for my day job.