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Appropriation Accounts 1998-99 Volume 16: Class XVI – Departments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer

“The Revenue Departments collected over £220 billion tax in 1998-99. With such large sums at stake, it is important that the tax system operates effectively. I am therefore pleased to advise Parliament that my examination confirmed that the Department’s systems continued to provide an effective check on the assessment and collection of revenue”.

23 Feb 2000

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

Audit of HM Customs and Excise Systems and Accounts, 2001-2002

” Customs’ approach to the collection of revenue has shifted to focus on those traders presenting the greatest risk of non-compliance. In 2001-2002 they were able to identify £2.5 billion net underpayments, some 5 per cent more than in the previous year. But I was concerned to find that in the same year the amount of tax owing to Customs increased markedly. Customs’ latest debt figures show some signs of improvement, but they have a long way to go.

” It will be of concern to everyone that there have been serious weaknesses in Customs’ systems for holding and disposing of seized goods. Customs are implementing a range of measures to address these weaknesses but they could have been quicker to deal with serious underlying problems.”

11 Dec 2002

Comptroller and Auditor General’s Standard Report on the Accounts of the Inland Revenue 2001-02

” It is important that the Department are learning the lessons from their experiences of the current tax credits to minimise similar problems in the new tax credits that are to operate from April 2003.

“They should also enhance their management information so that it is capable of demonstrating much more comprehensively their achievements in debt management and tax collection”.

9 Dec 2002

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