The government has been under immense pressure to try and support as many people and businesses as possible during these unprecedented times. No government has ever known times like these and every decision has had to be a learning curve. Despite this the UK government has put measures in place in order to support the economy as best as they can. With the introduction of various government schemes such as furlough and bounce back loans, see our previous blog for a full list of support available:
With businesses facing challenges which previously HMRC had never had experience with before, HMRC employees have had to adapt quicker than ever before to changing legislation and the introduction of new support schemes in order to deliver financial support to over 12million employed and self employed individuals. This figure is only based on the CJRS and SEISS schemes, so you can only imagine the scale of claims HMRC has had to deal with.
With the government's advice being work from home if possible, this saw many HMRC employees taking calls and web based enquiries from the comfort of their own homes, with new IT software having to be developed on kitchen tables and in spare bedroom in order to meet the demands of the unprecedented changes.
An incredible 90% of HMRC’s 60,000 workforce were able to work from home immediately in order to respond to the pandemic following the announcement of the first UK lockdown.
Despite the challenges HMRC has faced they have aimed to maintain consistently high levels of customer service despite the interruption during the transition of the majority of employees working remotely. Due to increased call volumes and staff reductions the phone line to HMRC was affected and this had an impact on call waiting times. HMRC had to deploy new measures such as introducing new dedicated helplines in order to get through the vast amount of incoming calls.
HMRC reported that they had an increase of 5 times the amount of web chats than usual as people were turning to the internet to try and get their enquiries answered. They began to focus on digital enhancements in order to cope with the volume of enquiries and increase their capacity.
HMRC faced further challenges such as having to move key equipment through borders more quickly such as PPE, ventilators and hand sanitiser. They worked closely with various government departments in order to meet critical deadlines.
HMRC has also had to adapt their procedures and become more flexible to deadlines in order to support their customers and deal with the effects of the pandemic. They have had to review deadlines and push them back in order to accommodate the chaos the pandemic has caused. The most recent one being the Self Assessment deadline, HMRC advised that they understand that the coronavirus has had a significant impact on people’s lives and that meeting the deadline of 31st January may not be possible for some, therefore they will not be issuing fines providing people submit their Self Assessment before 28th February. In order to assist HMRC it is vital that you submit your Self Assessment as early as you possibly can.
On top of the increased workload HMRC had to deal with tax fraud and the increase in Cyber crime, with fraudsters imitating HMRC in order to gain money fraudulently from vulnerable people. They have had to ensure their team of people can support the COVID schemes as well as preventing crime imposed upon them and its customers.
The tax system plays an important part of vital public funding such as the NHS, and at this critical time HMRC are urging people to submit their payments as soon as possible to keep the funds in motion.
HMRC are keeping the COVID situation under constant review to ensure that they are supporting the recovery of the economy especially when we start to emerge from lockdown.