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Comptroller and Auditor General’s Standard Report on the Accounts of HM Customs and Excise 2004-05

“Customs’ Tobacco Strategy has had a welcome effect on the levels of cigarette smuggling, and much has been done to develop positive working relations with the major UK tobacco manufacturers. However, in the last two years, the estimated level of smuggling has plateaued. I welcome the Department’s work to refresh their approach to take account of the changing nature of tobacco fraud and smuggling, in view of the growing threat posed by the smuggling of hand rolling tobacco.”

“Customs have been successful in reducing the level of outstanding debt available for collection, and have also managed to increase the amount of cash banked as a result of debt management activities in 2004-05. The failure to reconcile key systems on a regular and timely basis, and the failure to ensure that all amounts recoverable are under active management, though, represents a disappointing oversight which the Department are working to address.”

10 Oct 2005

Comptroller and Auditor General’s Standard Report on the Accounts of the Inland Revenue 2004-05

“Although there is some limited interim evidence that the level of claimant error and fraud involved in the payment of the new Tax Credits may have fallen, that level remained unacceptably high and therefore I have once again qualified my audit opinion on the Inland Revenue’s Trust Statement. The Department expects to have final results for the levels of fraud and error for 2003-04 awards in the Spring of 2006. It must use these results to target a year on year reduction in the amount of fraud and error. It must also ensure that confidence in the fairness of the schemes is not undermined by unacceptable levels of unjustified payments.

“The fact that tax credits awards are made on a provisional basis represents a significant cultural shift for many claimants. The need to repay the Department for overpaid awards has clearly caused difficulty for many families. The Department needs to understand better how claimants can be helped to cope with overpayments: some £2.2 billion in respect of 2003-04 awards.”

10 Oct 2005

Filing of Income Tax Self Assessment Returns

“The changes being made by HM Revenue and Customs to simplify income tax self assessment returns should ease the burden for many taxpayers in completing their returns and reduce costs for the Department. It is essential that these changes go hand in hand with more accurate processing of people’s tax affairs by the Department. No less important is that those who persistently fail to submit their tax returns be brought to book. Today’s report is designed to help achieve this as well as improvements in the efficiency of the Department’s operations. “

22 Jun 2005

Financial Auditing and Reporting: General Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General 2003-04

“I warmly welcome the steps being taken by the Treasury and departments to improve the professionalism of the finance function. The timely submission of accounts is still a problem for many departments, however. Fundamental to the success of faster closing is the recognition that producing accounts is not something which is left to the end of the year. Robust, accurate and timely financial information is pivotal to improved resource planning. It should be something that departments produce and utilise throughout the financial year.

“The National Audit Office will continue to work with audited bodies to help achieve better financial management and timelier external financial reporting.”

24 Mar 2005

HM Customs and Excise: Gambling Duties

“Customs has made progress in implementing the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee in its 2000 report on gambling duties. The introduction of the gross profits tax has also been successful in persuading the largest bookmaking firms to continue to base their core operations in the UK, thereby protecting revenue and industry jobs.

“The challenge for Customs now is to keep pace with and develop its expertise to deal with new forms of electronic gambling. It should also complete its work on measuring the tax gap for gambling duties to ensure resources are targeted on the areas of loss.”

14 Jan 2005

National Insurance Fund Account 2003-04

“Issuing millions of retrospective Deficiency Notices to the public will cost an estimated £100 million but the full increase in people’s entitlement to benefits as a result of the exercise is not yet known, particularly for those who have retired in recent years. I will consider further progress in future years.

“The Inland Revenue takes all reasonable action to trace and update its National Insurance contribution records; however, poor quality NI contributions information from some employers will for years to come continue to cause difficulties for the Inland Revenue and potentially for the individuals whose benefits depend on that information.”

12 Jan 2005

Audit of HM Customs and Excise systems and accounts 2003-04

“Customs’ UK Oils Strategy is an innovative and promising approach to tackling the illegal use of diesel and other fuels. The high degree of interdepartmental co-operation and improved intelligence gathering already achieved should provide substantial benefits, but Customs will need to ensure that issues such as IT support are further addressed.

“A significant decline in the VAT gap in 2003-04 indicates that Customs are on the right track with the VAT Compliance Strategy. Work is ongoing within the department to assess the effectiveness of individual elements of the Strategy to improve the targeting of resources and identify the best ways of further reducing the VAT gap.”

16 Dec 2004

Inland Revenue: Inheritance Tax

“The Inland Revenue’s management of Inheritance Tax has improved over the last five years. The burden of having to deal with the tax affairs of a relative after his or her death has been lightened, an important matter for those who are not professionals in these matters. And Inheritance Tax returns are dealt with more efficiently.

“My report highlights a number of areas where the Revenue can build on those improvements, to help ensure compliance and improve service to Inheritance Tax payers.”

3 Dec 2004