HM Revenue and Customs: Improving the Processing and Collection of Tax: Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax and Tax Credits - Public Accounts Committee Contents


HM Revenue and Customs (the Department) is the engine room of public spending, collecting the income that finances the majority of services provided by government. In 2008-09, total taxes and duties collected and receivable were £436 billion, some £22 billion lower than in 2007-08. The £436 billion included £28 billion in tax debtors. The Department has made a provision for bad and doubtful debts of £11.2 billion, 40% of the total, and £3.3 billion more than in the previous year.

At a time when the public finances are under pressure, protecting tax revenues has never been more important. The recession presents a number of challenges for the Department and places the tax system under a great deal of stress. Taxpayers looking for support have been given more time to pay their tax liabilities. But while the Department is working to improve its debt recovery, its efforts are constrained by outdated systems and it has deferred plans to invest in them due to lack of funding. Better systems would help the Department improve tax recovery and reduce losses.

At the same time the Department has to ensure that it counters risks of non-compliance and deals with backlogs of processing from previous years. Delays in introducing new systems have contributed to processing backlogs and have led to staff resources being diverted at critical times. The Department cannot now begin to clear the backlog of 17 million PAYE cases until its new systems are fully operational in April 2010. Delays in introducing new computer systems and the loss of expertise following office closures led the Department to divert staff away from work to test compliance with Stamp Duty Land Tax, increasing the risk of lost revenue from non-compliance.

The absence of information on tax losses through non-compliance and avoidance makes it harder for the Department to analyse risk and to judge how to deploy its resources where they will have most beneficial impact. It has saved £11 billion in potential tax avoidance since 2005, but does not have an estimate of how much tax has been lost because of avoidance or of the cost of the resources it devotes to tackling avoidance.

In 2007-08 claimant error and fraud resulted in incorrect tax credits payments of between £1.58 billion and £1.84 billion, leading to the qualification of the Comptroller and Auditor General's opinion on the regularity of tax credits expenditure. The Department is looking to reduce claimant error by improving the guidance and support it gives to people at the time they need to report changes in their circumstances. It has a target to reduce claimant error and fraud to not more than 5% of the value of finalised awards by 2011.

On the basis of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on HM Revenue and Customs 2008-09 Accounts, the Committee examined the Department on: how it is managing tax and tax credit debt; what it is doing to clear a backlog of PAYE and Corporation Tax settlements; how it is tackling tax avoidance; how it is improving the administration of Stamp Duty Land Tax; and how it is seeking to reduce tax credits error and fraud.[1]

1   C&AG's Report, HM Revenue and Customs 2008-09 Accounts, HC (2008-09) 464 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 10 December 2009