The British tax system is notoriously complex, and most ordinary mortals don’t stand a chance of getting to grips with its intricacies. But there’s good news on the horizon.

HMRC has announced a major reorganisation. It looks like more than 130 tax offices will shut down and the future emphasis will be placed firmly on digital tax and revenue services.

Out of date processes set to go – but will it really happen?

As a business owner, HMRC’s old fashioned processes and poor customer service have probably driven you absolutely nuts at least once in your business owning career. So this is fantastic news for anyone who comes in contact with the tax authorities.

On the other hand the new look HMRC is set to take shape over the next five years. Five years? The timescale alone raises concerns, a very long time indeed, and one that raises doubts the process will get off the ground never mind actually get completed.

What’s due to change?

  • 137 tax offices and 10 regional centres will close
  • The remaining offices will get the digital infrastructure and training facilities they need to create a better-skilled workforce
  • The aim is to major on digital services, a dramatic change from HMRC’s traditional heavily offline service so many of us know and hate

So, HMRC’s latest stab at modernisation will come with big investment in new online services, data analytics, new compliance techniques, new skills and new ways of working. We’ll see.

Do people prefer paper?

Accountancy Age says around 43% of tax returns were filed offline last year. They say it means people still want a traditional service. Really? Or is it just because the digital side of tax matters has been such a nightmare for so long that people just don’t trust it, and would rather place their financial matters on the hands of good old paper, tangible stuff you can see and touch? A choice between something sub-standard and something else equally rubbish isn’t, after all, much of a choice.

Fighting tax evasion

Another of the aims of the changes is to combat tax evasion, bringing in the billions of pounds lost every year because of avoidance and evasion. They hope their suite of newly trained staff will be better at bringing in more cash from evaders and avoiders.

The HMRC ‘field force’ sticks around

Despite all this proposed digitalsation, the revenue says its field force will remain, which means self-employed people and sole traders will still suffer visits. But the Public and Commercial Services Union predicts large numbers of HMRC’s people will choose redundancy after the reorganisation.

Will HMRC become easier to deal with? With five long years to wait, there’s no way to predict the outcome. But we’re not holding our breath!