Troup to set out revised approach to big business tax assurance by October

HMRC plans to release details of new tax assurance arrangements and performance targets for the department later this month, according to presentations at its annual stakeholder conference earlier this week

ICAEW’s digest of the proceedings says Edward Troup, recently promoted to the post of HMRC executive chair, indicated that HMRC would be announcing its intentions as to the new tax assurance arrangements in September.

When first appointed in February, Troup committed to reviewing the assurance procedure governing large tax settlements in HMRC will be reviewed. This followed widespread criticism of the tax deal with Google which resulted in the settlement of a £300m plus payment.

Currently, Troup continues to hold his previous role of tax assurance commissioner and is one of three HMRC commissioners who manage and oversee the process. 

They are advised by a tax disputes resolution board, below which are various resolution boards which look at cases in particular business areas across the department. In addition, there are contentious issues panels which consider disputed tax points which affect multiple taxpayers.

At the start of this year the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) questioned the robustness of this approach after it emerged that Google had agreed to pay £130m in corporation tax and interest, as a result of an HMRC investigation which started in 2010. This amount was considerably less than the sums being sought by other European tax authorities over similar issues with the technology giant, and PAC said it raised questions about so-called 'sweetheart' deals.

Jon Thompson, who took over as HMRC chief executive from Lin Homer in April, told the conference he had been given 60 targets by ministers and that these would also be published later in the month.

Shortly after his appointment, Thompson appeared at a PAC evidence session to discuss service levels at HMRC call centres, where he acknowledged very poor performance levels in 2015.

He said at the conference that the first of the 13 regional centres designed to offer more efficient customer service would be opened in Croydon, south London in 2017.

In his conference speech, he highlighted what he called ‘sustainable improvements’ in HMRC’s customer service levels. 

Thompson reported that in the past nine months, HMRC has consistently answered 85-90% of calls and in around five minutes, and at some points there have been weeks where the average waiting time was less than three minutes.

‘Our next step is to deliver even faster answering times and to move to seven-day customer services,’ he said.

Thompson also said at the conference that the first of the 13 regional centres designed to offer more efficient customer service would be opened in Croydon, south London. Further announcements about other locations will be made ‘over the next few months’, with Belfast and Liverpool named as ‘early priorities’.

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