A statement from The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts:
These accounts give us a mixed picture. One of the most startling figures is the tax gap for VAT, which HMRC estimates at £9.6 billion. That is a huge amount of money – 10% of the VAT that should be collected and a third of the overall tax gap. Yet despite some progress, HMRC still does not comprehensively check all VAT returns and its response to the emerging threat from online trading has been far too slow.
I welcome the progress HMRC is making in tackling fraud and error in the tax credit system, but with £2 billion in overpayments last year it still has a long way to go. And the personal tax credit debt balance is going up, not down. It now stands at £4.8bn, over £1bn greater than the target HMRC hopes to meet by the end of March 2015.
HMRC met its target to operate a normal PAYE service by March 2013, following previous problems. But it had to forego £953.3 million of tax in the process and there remain questions about its capacity to handle in year changes to taxpayer records. I also have concerns about HMRC’s real time information system (RTI), which has been rolled out before being fully tested. HMRC has chosen not to add in contingency for significant extra costs or measures to deal with major technical failure. This is worrying as the current cost of RTI is already expected to be £115.5m more than originally planned. HMRC is leaving itself exposed, which could be a real concern for DWP as Universal Credit relies on RTI.
HMRC is responsible for collecting all the tax due. It must do more to crack down on tax avoidance. And it needs to put taxpayers – the customer – at the heart of its services.