Following public consultation HMRC have published an updated Charter putting greater focus on the taxpayer.
HMRC have published an updated HMRC Charter on 5 November 2020 following a period of public consultation. The Charter, which is a legal requirement under Finance Act 2009, sets out the standards of behaviour and values that HMRC will follow in their dealings with taxpayers. HMRC have stated that their ambition for the revised Charter is to set out more clearly the experience that they want to deliver to taxpayers. At the same time HMRC published their annual report for the year ended 31 March 2020 including a review of HMRC’s performance against the previous version of the Charter for the period. HMRC reported total tax revenues of £636.7 billion for the period, a 1.4 percent increase on the prior year.
The updated HMRC Charter starts with a commitment to improving the experience of taxpayers and commits to providing taxpayers who need extra help with tailored support, as set out in a new list of principles. There is a move away from a list of taxpayers’ ‘rights’ and HMRC ‘obligations’, focusing instead on HMRC’s commitments to taxpayers in a set of standards.
Acknowledging the views of consultation respondents, many of the previous Charter’s messages have been retained, including getting things right, recognition that taxpayers can be represented by someone else, a commitment to making sure that HMRC contacts have the right level of expertise and minimising cost to taxpayers. In some areas the language has been strengthened to hold HMRC to higher standards, for instance, following consultation feedback HMRC have now committed that they ‘will’ rather than ‘will aim to’ provide accurate, consistent and clear information.
The separate list of taxpayer obligations in the previous Charter has been removed however the content of these obligations remains, embedded instead within the Charter text. The Charter also contains a section on mutual respect with an emphasis on taxpayers and HMRC treating each other with respect and integrity.
To support oversight and transparency, HMRC have, for the first time, committed to publishing a forward-looking customer experience plan each year in response to the Charter Annual report, starting from 2021. In HMRC’s consultation outcome they also note that they will take further measures to embed the Charter within HMRC including linking the Charter principles into policy development and developing a set of Compliance Professional Standards structured around the Charter standards to ensure that taxpayers’ individual circumstances are considered in compliance enquiries.
The publication of the revised HMRC Charter coincided with HMRC’s publication of their annual report and accounts for the year ended 31 March 2020, which included a review of HMRC’s performance against the previous Charter. According to the annual report HMRC generated total tax revenues of £636.7 billion for the period, a 1.4 percent increase on the prior year.
HMRC’s Charter annual report notes that taxpayer satisfaction with HMRC is generally strong and that they are taking positive steps to make further progress. There was also praise for the ‘outstanding’ way in which HMRC have performed in response to COVID-19. The report notes however that “there is more to do to make performance more consistent” and the report’s adjudicator noted that there is “little sign that the current ‘Your Charter’ is widely referred to or embedded in HMRC”. As noted above HMRC have confirmed in their consultation outcome that they will be taking further measures to embed and improve the visibility of the updated Charter including the rollout of training to their staff. The success of these measures will be monitored, and we can expect an update in next year’s annual report.
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