Extra staff are brought in to deal with tax returns backlog

FORMER Income Tax staff are being recalled and local accountants with tax expertise are being brought in at the Revenue Service in a bid to clear a tax return backlog.

Sarah Davies, head of service delivery for the Revenue Service. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30385275))
Sarah Davies, head of service delivery for the Revenue Service. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30385275))

The office wants to get returns up to date by the end of the year.

But 7% of personal tax assessments from 2018 are still outstanding and 32% from 2019.

Local tax services have long been dogged by delays, but a big technological transformation has caused new issues. A new online form has been introduced, but the automated assessment functionality has experienced delays, meaning that all returns have to be assessed manually.

Sarah Davies, head of service delivery at the Revenue Service said two teams – totalling 16 people – handled all personal and business returns.

Between 35,000 and 40,000 personal returns are submitted every year.

‘We understand that our customers are frustrated at the delays and we apologise for this,’ she said.

‘The service is doing its best to get through as many returns as we can, which is why we’ve brought in this additional support and we hope to get through assessments faster.’

The service is enlisting the support of ex-staff members to process assessments and is also in discussions with local accountants to identify people who could be seconded.

This would involve a cost, but Mrs Davies said she was hopeful accountants could help.

She said the work was quite specialised and there was a limited number of former staff who would be available to help.

‘We are trying to bring in ex-members of staff as they are already trained and they can hit the ground running, so we do not have to invest time in training them,’ she said.

She said the sheer volume of returns made the job difficult, as most islanders have to fill in a form every year. This has led to several years of delays.

‘It has been a tough few years,’ she said.

‘The team are doing remarkably well, but morale is not what it should be... I’m very proud and humbled by the staff.

‘I can’t thank them enough. For them, it’s been a constant push and it’s never enough.’

It is hard to determine when each year of returns will be cleared because when the team do a 2020 return, they will also do a person’s 2018 and 2019 returns, bringing their case completely up to date.

There can also be complications with complex returns. Mrs Davies said she could not give assurances when the backlog would be clear, but she hoped it would be by the end of this year.

‘It’s a tough target,’ she said.

‘I am really sorry it has taken so long. We are doing all we can.’

n The 2021 return should be released in the spring, after the 2020 deadline at the end of February. After upgrading last year to allow people to get an idea of their estimated liability, further enhancements are planned for the 2021 return, including providing customers who completed their 2020 return online with their data pre-populated in the form.

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