The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland (ICAS) has just completed a member survey on HM Revenue & Customs errors and shortcomings. 

The survey follows similar surveys conducted in 2009 and 2007. Its results have raised the following key concerns:


Facilities for tax agents and taxpayers to contact HMRC have deteriorated drastically during the past year. Urgent action is needed to remedy this. Difficulties reported by ICAS members in communicating with HMRC dominate the results. These account for 71 (nearly 43%) of the 166 matters reported, compared with less than 13% in 2009. Of the 71 items reported, 40 are ranked ‘most serious’, 51 are categorised as more serious than a year ago, and 13 are new problems that have appeared in the past year.


Matters have become worse over the past year. Of the 166 matters reported, 25 (15%) relate to PAYE compared 11% in 2009. Of the 25 items reported, 12 are ranked ‘most serious’, 18 are categorised as more serious than a year ago, and 4 are new problems. The survey was completed before the new NPS ‘auto-reconciliations’ issued in September 2010 caused a public outcry about the administration of PAYE.

Online filing

Problems with online filing account for 19 (11%) of the matters reported compared with 26% in 2009 – a welcome reduction as online filing becomes more stable and mature. Nonetheless, many of the problems being reported now are new, and many others are more serious than they were a year ago. It is a concern that, of the 19 items reported, 10 are ranked as ‘most serious’ and 10 (not entirely the same 10) are categorised as more serious than a year ago while 7 are new problems.

Delayed tax repayments  

Delays in receiving tax repayments remain a serious problem for tax agents. Although the number of related errors and shortcomings reported are on a par with last year, this hides the fact that most are ranked as ‘most serious’, most are considered more serious than last year, and several new problems have emerged this year. Such issues account for 16 (9%) of the items reported compared with 9% in 2009. It is worrying that there has been no improvement. Of the 16 items reported, 13 are ranked as ‘most serious’, 11 are categorised as more serious than a year, and 4 are new problems.

The problems raised by respondents cover a wide range of other issues, and the ICAS hopes that the material in this report can be used by HMRC to identify and remedy.