What do HMRC really think about MTD?
I recently attended a Making Tax Digital External Key Stakeholders event in London hosted by HMRC and whilst the meeting was for HMRC to get the opinions of those present they did have a few speakers who only spoke for a few moments each, so nothing new was learned about MTD and its processes.
However, I did make a note of a few points made by them because I think they give a clear indication of what they are really thinking and believe about the whole process.
Jim Harra the wonderfully titled “Director General for Customer Strategy and Tax Design” said that HMRC and Ministers are committed to MTD so absolutely and unequivocally we can deduce that HMRC and HM Government are determined to get MTD to fruition. He added that MTD will even make it easier to get tax right which re-iterates the HMRC held belief that MTD will increase the tax take and reduce the supposed Tax Gap. He also made reference to the £1.3b investment that HMRC had been provided with to make MTD actually happen.
Emma Churchill HMRC’s Director for MTD Process transformation told us that the process would lower the cost base, would also generate more compliance revenue and would improve the service throwing in for good luck that it (MTD) would contribute to a £400m Admin saving. Now I suppose it’s fairly obvious that for a lower cost base read “cut more staff” but will MTD actually increase revenue to the exchequer? Who knows I personally doubt it but it seems that HMRC are as one on this. Will MTD improve service? well honestly can it really get much worse? Something as simple as staff answering the ‘phone would be an improvement or having a ‘phone number on all correspondence would be an improvement wouldn’t it? But then I’m forgetting that they don’t actually want taxpayers to ring, much better they engage with HMRC via a keyboard.
Theresa Middleton the MTD for Business Programme Director told us that apparently it’s the way the world is going and that HMRC believe there is an appetite for MTD with Businesses. Now I don’t for a moment doubt her veracity but she most certainly is not talking to any businessmen or women that I know in fact I actually wonder how many businesses whether large, medium, small, micro or microbe actually know anything whatsoever about MTD. As for the usual comments that everyone uses whenever promoting any form of digital engagement namely that “it’s the way the world is going” because we bank online and we gamble online and we shop online I would point out that whilst all of this is true there is one point that is never mentioned namely that we have CHOSEN to bank online or gamble online or shop online we have NOT BEEN MADE TO yet that is.
I, like all of those present, made as many points as I could always trying to be constructive but my overriding thought as I walked away from the venue was that MTD was going to happen and I seriously don’t think HMRC are ready nor for that matter do I think businesses are ready and if we are to have MTD then we need to get a serious delay.