MTD and Brexit cause HMRC helpline delays
Business owners calling HMRC's VAT helpline for assistance have experienced increasing delays in the first part of this year, with Brexit and Making Tax Digital (MTD) putting pressure on resources.
Correspondence from HMRC to the Treasury select committee shows helpline demand increased by more than 40% between January and May 2019, but the number of calls answered fell.
HMRC answered less than 42% of calls that made it beyond their recorded messages in May, compared to 72% in January.
On average, customers waited seven minutes before their call was answered in January. This rose to more than 16 minutes in May, and only 9% of calls were answered within 10 minutes.
A joint working group between the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) and the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) says the delays are a result of "inadequate" testing of MTD for VAT before its roll-out in April 2019.
The scheme's public pilot opened in mid-October 2018, with only the simplest businesses included at first and others introduced later.
Tina Riches, chair of the joint CIOT and ATT digitalisation and agent strategy working group, says this did not allow enough time before the scheme was launched, and that "clearer guidance" was needed from HMRC.
The tax bodies also say Brexit has put an additional strain on HMRC's resources, and that MTD should not have been implemented at the same time as the UK was scheduled to leave the EU.
"Not only has [Brexit] impacted on business's preparations, it is clear that it has taken a significant toll on HMRC, too.
"But while HMRC have the scale to move resources within its organisation, that is a luxury that most businesses do not enjoy."
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