It sounds like a silly question, right? Well, you may be surprised at just how many self-employed, sole trader and Ltd. Company Directors ARE apprehensive about contacting HMRC.
So, what’s the truth? Is HMRC scary? In truth, no they’re not, but it’s understandable that some may feel intimated speaking to them for the first time. It’s the same unease as having a police car driving behind you… you know you’re doing nothing wrong, but you can’t help but ask yourself “did I remember to indicate at that last junction?”. People find HMRC scary because they are an authority figure. There’s a sense of dread that tells us “beware the taxman” when in reality, there’s nothing to fear.
As accountants, we deal with HRMC more than your typical Joe Bloggs, we have an open line of communication with them, and yes, we have heard a few customer “horror stories” of people dealing with HMRC staff. Some of which turn out to be minor inconveniences… “I once called and the HMRC staff member didn’t know what a UTR was!” for example. We’ve all had foggy-headed days when we’ve not quite been on the communication train. Vilifying them over slight mishaps won’t help your cause – they’re people too, try to give them a break! Yes, when you first call HMRC because of a brown letter that thudded onto your welcome mat, it can seem pretty daunting. You’ll likely be thinking the worst, but clarity always makes things easier to digest. HMRC staff are trained to be reasonable and to consider your individual circumstances, especially when addressing outstanding taxes and payment terms.
You may even consider not calling through worry of it being a redundant exercise. If you’re in doubt, make the call, they can probably help you.
If you feel that the member of staff on the line is being unreasonable, inappropriate and/or can’t help you, ask for another staff member or manager. You have the right to do so, don’t be afraid to ask.
Sometimes HMRC systems can be wrong. I know, crazy right! How can Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs be wrong? Well just like any other system it is prone to error (both human and systematic) leading to occasional discrepancy. If you think HMRC has gotten something wrong, the best thing to do is contact them straight away to explain the circumstance. Have your paperwork and figures to hand and go over every detail, they can often re-calculate on the spot to see if any inaccuracies exist. If they don’t, then they’ll amicably explain why you’ve received such correspondence.
Yes, the taxman can SEEM scary to deal with, but as long as you keep evidence of your accounts then there is nothing to fear. One thing to always remember is that the HMRC rep. at the other end of the line is just like you and me, they’re there doing the best that they can, and they’re human – be nice, be kind, be polite… it’ll make the whole process more enjoyable for both of you.
In summary, don’t be afraid, there’s no need to procrastinate or cower in fear. Be open and honest with HMRC and if you believe they have made an error, contact them.
They don’t bite… much.
Let us know if you agree with this article? Do you have any examples dealing with HMRC (good or bad)?