HMRC will no longer send out letters in the post advising taxpayers of self assessment repayment notifications, claiming they simply caused confusion
The change was announced on 7 December and came into effect immediately affecting notifications about all Bacs self assessment repayments.
This will affect tax advisers and individual taxpayers. Instead of a letter, HMRC will send out a digital confirmation although this will not start immediately as the IT system has to be updated to handle the change.
In an update to accountants and tax advisers, HMRC said: ‘We’re changing how we let you and your clients know we’ve issued a SA Bacs electronic repayment. There is no change to the repayment process itself, so customers will still receive any monies owed to them through their bank as normal.
‘We’ll no longer send a letter informing you or your client of an SA repayment. We often find these letters arrive after the repayment has been made leading to confusion and increased contact from customers.
‘We are making improvements to our IT systems in relation to SA repayments, so we are also temporarily pausing digital notifications from 7 December 2023 while we do this. We’ll let you know when these notifications are reinstated.’
HMRC has clearly judged that the volume of calls about repayment issues is too high and sees this as an area where it can reduce costs. The end of letter communications should reduce pressure on limited resources in call centres, while also saving on the cost of producing letters and postage.
Accountants and individual taxpayers will still be able to view repayment transactions through HMRC online services. The information will be available in agents accounts, where agents can review transactions for their clients. Individuals will be able to access their HMRC online account to review any transactions and can also sign up to receive digital notifications, although this service is currently suspended.
The end of repayment letters was announced at the same time as HMRC seriously curtailed the use of self assessment helplines in the run-up to the tax return season. This will see HMRC call handlers only dealing with the most complex enquiries, while all callers will be met with a message stating that the majority of queries can be handled online on HMRC’s website. They will also be sent a text message, if they have called on a mobile, advising them where to find the information requested.
The reduction in helplines will also hit accountants, with the agents dedicated line handling only the most complex queries during the self assessment season, while HMRC call handlers will not deal with any PAYE-related questions until February.
Accountancy bodies criticised the move, pointing to a major resource issue at HMRC, which has seen a number of service cuts in recent months.
John Barnett, chair of CIOT’s technical policy and oversight committee said: ‘We are concerned that in practice many of their customers will be unable to navigate HMRC’s digital services and will simply give up.
‘Previous trials to limit calls to complex queries, or diverting people to online services, have proven either troublesome or inconclusive.’