Institute calls for emergency taskforce to tackle HMRC backlog 

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) says long-standing delays have become a drag on the UK's economic growth and is calling for a cross-sector taskforce to be created to address them. The Institute says taxpayers and accountants are having to wait up to a year for HMRC to respond to queries over the phone or by post, while callers report that they have waited for more than an hour before being cut off. Customer service staffing levels at HMRC have reduced from 25,500 to 19,500 people, causing long delays for both agents and taxpayers.

These delays were the biggest area of complaint made by ICAEW members in 2022, whether relating to financial or other resource constraints. VAT registration for a new or growing business or re-registration where an existing business incorporates should be expected to happen quickly, the Institute says. Such businesses are growing and their administrative workload will double while they wait for HMRC to act.

“The delays at HMRC are unacceptable and need to be addressed promptly,” says Michael Izza, ICAEW Chief Executive. “We’re calling on ministers to set up an emergency taskforce to identify steps to eliminate HMRC's backlog and improve its service standards, so that in the future it supports, not inhibits, business growth and maximises the tax receipts needed to fund public services. The taskforce should include representatives from professional bodies and from business, who would be empowered to make recommendations to HMRC to improve its services and clear its backlog.”

“The HMRC backlog has had major implications for our clients,” adds our Tax Director, Fiona Ferrol, who supports the creation of such a taskforce. “These range from delays obtaining refunds of overpaid taxes which in turn causes cash flow issues for companies and individuals, to prolonged enquiries due to lack of responses from HMRC. Dealings with HMRC can cause great uncertainty for clients under normal conditions, but when the process is dragged out unnecessarily it can cause undue stress or anxiety.”