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Single compliance process pilot: a short delay

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HMRC have agreed to delay the start of their ‘single compliance process’ pilot for enquiries across a range of taxes, in order to allow the department to produce detailed guidance for agents, the ICAEW Tax Faculty said.

HMRC will not contact businesses selected for the pilot, or their representatives, until the week commencing 20 June. The pilot was set to begin this week, but tax experts have expressed concerns over HMRC’s plans. Anthony Thomas, President of the CIOT, has complained of a ‘tick box consultation’ with tax agent representatives.

HMRC’s efforts to ‘deliver more with less resource’ are behind the new initiative, according to minutes of the February 2011 meeting of HMRC’s Compliance Reform Forum, which have just been published. The minutes of the meeting attended by HMRC officials and agent representatives record that HMRC were looking at new ways of working to increase productivity.

‘One approach is to simplify and standardise the ways enquiries are handled across all heads of duty. This should speed up the enquiry process, improving the customer experience and reducing costs,’ the minutes said.

‘The aim was to have the first designs of the process prepared by 31 January 2011, with a view to have them finalised by 31 May 2011. They will then be tested until 30 June 2012. The CRF have not been briefed on potential designs and wanted to know what would be involved.’

The minutes record that agent representatives welcomed the idea that enquiries would be completed more quickly but wanted clarification on some points.

‘For example how many people would visit during a cross-tax enquiry? Hopefully not one for each head of duty as that would be very intrusive. It was suggested that as CRF members wanted to know more about this a set of principles be drawn up for CRF to agree and then a subgroup be set up prior to trialling the new designs.’

The next meeting of the Forum was scheduled for 7 June.

‘Tick box consultations’

Writing in today’s issue of Tax Journal, Thomas said: ‘HMRC were working on this back in 2010 but it was first exposed to the professional bodies only on 9 May this year and presented very much as a fait accompli, although they are now making some late changes as a result of our representations.’

He added: ‘We have a new, and welcome, consultation framework, which should preclude such apparent 'tick box' consultations — what went wrong this time?’

The trial will run in Reading, Slough, Newcastle, Warrington, York, Exeter, London Euston, Southampton, Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh and Dundee, and will be 'rolled out nationally' from January 2012 if it is successful.