17 January 2022

Staff from the CIPP attended Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC’s) stakeholder conference in London in December 2021. Read on to hear all about the day and the areas covered

Samantha Johnson and Lora Murphy, from the CIPP’s policy team, along with chief executive officer, Ken Pullar, jumped at the chance to attend HMRC’s stakeholder conference, held at its Stratford regional office. The team were eager to interact face-to-face once again, a refreshing change from that all-too-familiar feeling of speaking to a screen.

Jim Harra, the first permanent secretary and chief executive of HMRC opened the event, declaring his pride for how the department had delivered throughout the pandemic. He discussed his ambition to continue to improve the service HMRC provides, and thanked stakeholders, acknowledging the vital role they play.

During the pandemic, HMRC’s services were prioritised, and impacts this had on performance were recognised. Jim was clear, however, that HMRC will take learnings from this, and continue to work with customers, stakeholders and colleagues to build a trusted and modern tax and customs department.

Financial secretary, Lucy Frazer, followed the opening speech, describing challenges she faced in the first weeks of her role, where she had ‘to hit the ground running’. In this time, HMRC prepared for the autumn 2021 budget and spending review, tax administration and maintenance day and passed the Finance Bill through the House of Commons.

Attention turned towards the impact HMRC has on all aspects of life, and Lucy discussed the vital importance of the stakeholder role. She specifically mentioned the Employment and Payroll Group, on which the CIPP represents payroll professionals. She stressed the importance of customer service within HMRC and acknowledged work needed to be done to get the basics right. This message was reflected throughout the day.

Lucy discussed the investment secured in the spending review 2021. £136 million to create the single customer account, and a further £468 million to continue modernising the tax system. A key focus was placed on the importance of digitalisation, and the role that making tax digital (MTD), real-time information (RTI) and the single customer account would play in that vision.

She summarised by describing her vision for the future of HMRC – making it easier to pay and collect tax because the system works for all. A trusted tax system ready to deal with the demands of the modern world.

Jonathan Athow, director general of customer strategy and tax design, explored the HMRC strategy further. He outlined the values and customer charter that HMRC is working to, pinpointing six elements of the tax administration strategy:

  • MTD

  • RTI

  • timely payments

  • single customer account

  • improved standards in tax advice

  • a modern tax administration framework.

The team set out a plan of key deliverables over the next three years, and the central themes running throughout, which included delivering:

1. the tax administration strategy

2. HMRC’s core purpose

3. government policy.

Myrtle Lloyd, director general of the customer services group, kicked off with a video that described the challenges and the triumphs of the covid support schemes. The CIPP featured, sharing the challenges faced by its Advisory Service team and the pace of change seen throughout the delivery of the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS).

The film concluded with several statistics. 1.3 million businesses and 11.7 million jobs were supported by the CJRS. 10.4 million self-employed income support scheme grants were given to 2.9 million individuals, and 5,000 HMRC staff worked to deliver the covid support schemes.

Myrtle reflected on the three key priority areas during Covid-19, which were to:

1. protect livelihoods

2. deliver the UK’s transition from the European Union

3. keep delivering key services.

HMRC described how its services had been impacted by the pandemic but confirmed they would return to pre-pandemic levels by April 2022.

Nick Jones, deputy director of debt management, shared the approach HMRC took to debt collection during the pandemic, as activity was paused during the most challenging periods. Nick was eager to promote the support available, with time to pay schemes, case-by-case deferral options and debt advice available for struggling businesses. HMRC has restarted debt collection, but Nick stressed it would take a compassionate approach, with insolvency petitions only considered after all alternative routes were explored.

The conference continued with breakout sessions on MTD, working with agents, HMRC’s approach to fraud and the journey to full customs and declarations controls.

The conference concluded with a question-and-answer session with a large number of the executive team in HMRC, who were open to answering anything.

The transparency and engagement from HMRC throughout the day was encouraging. However, the CIPP and HMRC acknowledge there is still more to be done in delivering the service customers need and deserve.

The CIPP will continue to work as a key stakeholder with HMRC and represent the voice of the payroll profession. 

Do you want to share your challenges with HMRC? Is there a better way of doing things to be explored? Share your thoughts with the policy team, at: [email protected].


Featured in the February 2022 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.