All is not well at HMRC

OK, so HMRC is getting what looks like an entirely justifiable kicking for (a) losing the CDs in transit, and (b) having a system which allowed a junior member of staff to burn the most sensitive data to CDs in the first place. But that isn’t the end of it.

Have a quick glance through these PQs on VAT registration, answered last month, which received virtually zero media coverage. HMRC has a target time of 14 days to process an application to register for VAT. Since the start of 2007, in their best month (January), they failed to meet that target in 79% of applications. Let me repeat that: the best they’ve managed is 79% failure. The worst – 93% failure in April. Things are on the up since then, but the September figure was still over 80% failure.

(For the record: the First Great Western train franchise, the worst performing in the country,  fails to meet its service delivery target – train punctuality – in just 17.4% of cases, according to the latest data from the Rail Regulator.)

FST Jane Kennedy is contrite: ‘HMRC recognise that in recent months there have been some unacceptable delays for genuine businesses. Several factors have contributed to this, including an increase in the threat of fraud, an increase in the number of applications, and both resource and IT pressures.’

This is a problem which has been raised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales; in June, they identified VAT registration delays as ‘the biggest single VAT issue facing our members and their clients.’ I’m afraid I was one of them, and yes, it was a major inconvenience at the very moment I was trying to get a small business off the ground. It’s just as well I could live off my savings for a few months.