Agents tell us that getting a response from HMRC can be time-consuming. Indeed, this was expressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a letter from several accountancy bodies who, collectively, represent thousands of accountants. HMRC service levels result in frustration, not least cash-flow disruption. The letter sought to raise the issue ahead of the Spring Budget 2023, indicating that this presented an opportunity to ‘invest in HMRC, with a focus on improving customer service and effectiveness’.
In May 2023, well after the Spring Budget, Victoria Atkins, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, responded. Whilst she apologised, she largely justified HMRC’s service levels, indicating that digital communication is the future rather than using the telephone or writing a letter.
It is disappointing that poor service levels were not acknowledged, though this response does indicate the future direction of HMRC in encouraging digital communication. In some respects, this is understandable and it is achievable by some employers. Although, perhaps HMRC acknowledge a problem with responses to enquiries by post as 10 July 2023 saw an expansion of the remit of the Agent Account Manager (AAM) team. From this date, providing the agent is registered, the expanded remit will allow them to look at postal queries that have been outstanding for 12 months or more.
There are some important points to note before using this service:
- Unless they are over 12 months old, the AAM service cannot be used for formal complaints and compliance checks
- The service cannot be used if a query is already under investigation at HMRC
- The agent must be registered
- The query must be raised using the Agent Issue Resolution Service form and, importantly
- Within the form is a section ‘About your client’ that contains a ‘reason’ field. This must be completed with the narrative ‘agents 12 month+ post-trial’
Like any change to their service, HMRC advise that they will periodically review the success, or otherwise. Therefore, this is our opportunity to make this work for ourselves and HMRC and finally clear that backlog of postal enquiries that hinder the work we do, all in the name of compliance.
The service will initially be reviewed on 4 August and if it is concluded to have been successful, HMRC will extend for a further trial period.