HMRC has been at the forefront of the government’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the extraordinary challenges being faced by millions of individuals and businesses.
According to HMRC:
The department successfully developed and implemented schemes at unprecedented speed to deliver financial support to more than 12 million employed and self-employed workers via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. In addition, it has implemented more than 60 provisional policy changes or easements to help respond to the impact of coronavirus.
The operational priority has been to deliver the government support that aims to protect people’s livelihoods and help businesses get through this difficult time financially. Now the department is seeking to build on what it has learned during the pandemic about large scale delivery and the citizens and businesses it serves as the country emerges from the pandemic. The IT which underpinned the coronavirus support schemes was designed, built and delivered from kitchen tables and spare bedrooms; busy customer service staff answered queries remotely from their own homes for the first time; and 90% of HMRC’s 60,000 workforce were able to immediately work remotely to help stop the spread of the virus when the country went into lockdown.
Now that the initial government support response to coronavirus is coming to an end – for example, the closing down of the furlough and self-employed support schemes – it will be interesting to see what other support schemes HMRC may be required to create.
Much will depend – not only on the ability of HMRC to deliver – but the Treasury’s willingness to endorse the required government funding for such schemes.
In their closing remarks HMRC concluded:
HMRC’s primary purpose is to collect the money that pays for the UK’s vital public services and pay out the correct financial support to those who are entitled to it, and as we emerge from the pandemic, the department will carry out this vital work in a way that is sensitive to customers’ altered needs and the challenges they face.
Hopefully, this can be interpreted as a tread-lightly approach; much of the UK business sector is already walking on eggshells.