Is the HMRC Charter Fit for Purpose? Experiences of Tax Practitioners and Vulnerable Citizens

Closs-Davies, S.; Burkinshaw, L. and Frecknall-Hughes, J. (2024). Is the HMRC Charter Fit for Purpose? Experiences of Tax Practitioners and Vulnerable Citizens. British Tax Review, 2024(2)

Abstract

Interactions with His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) should accord with the principles outlined in HMRC’s 2023 Charter, e.g. “Getting things right”; “Making things easy”; “Being responsive”; “Treating you fairly”; “Being aware of your personal situation”; and “Recognising that someone can represent you”. These principles should ensure taxpayers are treated in alignment with democratic tax principles, such as equity. Some taxpayers are represented in their dealings with HMRC, but others are not (e.g. vulnerable people and low-income earners), and must interact directly with HMRC or seek help from a tax charity.

Using three empirical studies we investigate the experiences of individuals using HMRC services, namely small tax practitioners and two vulnerable groups of people, specifically tax credit claimants and older individuals with low-income levels. We analyse these groups’ interactions with HMRC in terms of the above Charter principles. We highlight the unintended consequences and impact of digitalisation of tax administration, particularly for disadvantaged citizens. We offer recommendations to improve tax administration, policy and practice, better aligning them with democratic tax principles.

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