One of the things we support our clients with is contacting HMRC when there is an error which needs correcting. HMRC helplines, whether for VAT or PAYE, are not at all helpful when you are a busy person. I have held for 30 minutes and still not been answered. I have gone through the 5 minute rigmarole of telling the robot what I am calling about and being told that I can find my answer online, only to be cut off as soon as I get to the place I want to be.
It is frustrating for us but more frustrating for business owners who may not have the time to hold on for who knows how long. And if they do get through they can be flummoxed by the person on the other end who is not helpful because they don't understand what you are calling about.
It is not often we have to call HMRC but recently they have sent letters to us as agents informing us of late payments which we know are incorrect.
One client had a penalty and interest charge for submitting and paying the final VAT return on de-registration late. However it wasn't late according to another HMRC letter which confirmed the de-registration date and gave a submission date a month after the date of that letter. The penalty was given because apparently submission was due before the de-registration date was even confirmed! I was able to appeal online and they cancelled the penalty but left the late payment interest! Unable to get through on the phone as I kept being cut off I have now written to HMRC asking them to correct their error. I wait with baited breath to see if they can complete the process. It took them 3 weeks to collect the tracked letter!
Another client had a bounced direct debit for VAT because HMRC didn't notify the date they were taking the payment and took it earlier than expected and before the funds had been moved from the VAT savings account to the current account. After several days of trying to get through to HMRC and being cut off before even being put on hold, I eventually got through to ask if the direct debit would be represented or whether to pay by BACS. The HMRC representative didn't know! We decided to pay by BACS and it was just four days late. However that wasn't the end! HMRC sent an email to my client more than two months later saying the direct debit had bounced and the following day a letter arrived setting out the penalties and interest for paying late. On reviewing the VAT account on the Government Gateway the payment had been applied to a subsequent VAT return which was a completely different amount, with a payment date two months after the payment was made. This is not something that can be sorted out online but needs a phone call for the payment to be reallocated - if I am ever able to get through.
HMRC just create a lot of wasted time for business owners as well as ourselves and accountants because we have to call to sort out the errors they have made. These errors cannot be corrected online.
We also have to phone to correct errors with PAYE. Sometimes the information we send from payroll is loaded completely differently by HMRC and employers are chased for payments which aren't due. We have one currently where the Employment Allowance for one month hasn't been uploaded although it was included in that monthly submission. The Employment Allowance for previous and subsequent months has been uploaded correctly. In our call to HMRC we were told that they could see the Employment Allowance for that month, even though we couldn't on our Government Gateway, however they continue to send the employer late payment notifications for exactly that amount.
These are just some examples of HMRC errors which we are dealing with at the moment on behalf of our clients. It is frustrating that HMRC can't get things right and are almost unreachable by phone (and the calls are not free to 0300 numbers), but we do take on that responsibility for our clients to sort out these HMRC errors so that they don't have to worry. We always tell our clients not to pay any demands for PAYE or VAT until they have checked with us first because we can check the accounts (if we do the bookkeeping) and we can check the Government Gateway portals to identify if there is a late payment or whether the allocation of a payment is incorrect.
If you want peace of mind that your accounts and payroll are accurate and for someone to deal with HMRC on your behalf if ever needed, give us a call and see how we can help your business.