The good old days
It always used to be like this. A client would have a tax problem to solve – not a tax planning problem, just something about the workings of the tax system that wasn’t quite right. Some “grit in the system” as HMRC call it. The client would ask their accountant to sort it out and, typically, we had a good working relationship with one or two tax inspectors who could sort it out using some common sense and an understanding of the dark and mysterious inner workings of the Inland Revenue.
Then the reorganisations started. Tax offices closed. Tax Inspectors left. The call centres opened employing many well-intentioned but fundamentally poorly-trained operatives, Taxpayers became “customers”. HMRC became process driven. They focused on the system and left taxpayers and their accounts to sort the grit out if they could.
Recently I have been dealing with some grit for a client for about six months. “Same grit, different day” to paraphrase a 21st century saying. In summary the client had suffered some tax deductions and wanted these repaid. Claims were made and returns submitted. Nothing happened. We called “the helpline” and got different advice each time. We asked for one person to deal with the case and were refused. More calls were made and more misleading advice was given. Call-backs were promised but never happened. The money stayed with HMRC.
For fax sake!
Then my client had to pay the VAT bill but they couldn’t because HMRC still had their tax deductions. We were told to write in explaining the problem and urging HMRC to process our claim urgently as a matter of “hardship”. We did – they didn’t get the letter. They asked us to fax it to them – who uses fax these days?
Common sense at last
Eventually we called again and by pure chance Frank (not his real name) took the call. Frank was an old school taxman. He listened and said he would call back.
He called back that day…at 5,30pm! He called on his landline so that his call could not be recorded. He criticised the advice we had received and agreed we had been poorly treated. He explained that he had worked through his lunchtime on the case and had a solution. He explained what we should do and what he would do. Ten days later he has done it. It always used to be like this……