HMRC offers a helping hand to contract accounting

Thursday 13 February 2014

Most self employed people will attest to the fact that contract accounting is priceless when it comes to ensuring a business stays on the right side of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Now, in a bid to make things even easier, the tax body itself will lend more of a helping hand.

HMRC revealed that it will be rolling out a new face-to-face support service for customers that need additional assistance with their taxes.

Set to begin in the spring following a successful seven-month trial in the north-east of England, the service will give contractors access to expert advisers both over the phone and in selected, convenient locations.

According to HMRC, the phone service will allow experts to be brought together in a single call to resolve multiple issues. This will prevent customers from being transferred around different departments of HMRC to tackle separate issues.

Using the 'mobile advisers', a personal appointment will be able to be arranged across a range of venues, including a person's own home or business.

Ruth Owen, HMRC's director general for personal tax, said: "HMRC is dedicated to providing help to customers when they need it. The pilot showed that this is a valuable service for those who cannot get the help they need elsewhere.

"Our Enquiry Centres offer a great service to those who can reach them. But they are spread unevenly across the UK, the number of people using them continues to fall, and our research shows that the majority of customers who do use them don’t actually need to. The new service will enable us to tailor help in a way that works better and is more affordable."

Referral to the new services will be done by HMRC's existing helpline and by voluntary sector partners.

However, once this more personal experience is rolled out in May, the current Enquiry Centre network will be closed.

People will still be encouraged to use HMRC's telephone service when issues can be resolved remotely.

More funding and support will also be made available to voluntary sector organisations to they can better deal with those that need tax help.

It is believed that under the new system, customers will be saved a collective £17 million a year in lost time and travel costs. Taxpayers will also be spared over £27 million per annum, thanks to the closure of the Enquiry Centre network.

Currently, just a small minority of HMRC customers use the network. Indeed, demand fell from five million visitors in 2005-2006 to fewer than two million last year. Consequently, some centres are now open just one day a week.

Understanding of personal tax matters seems to be improving, with HMRC reporting record numbers of self-assessment forms filed on time for the January 31st deadline.

Indeed, more than ten million returns were received before the deadline last month, surpassing the 9.61 million filed the year prior. The record for the number of returns submitted online was also smashed, with 8.48 million sent to HMRC over the internet on time.


By Victoria McDonnell

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