HMRC's relationship with business

At a conference on ‘Tax risk management: new approaches to tax compliance’ on 15th May 2014 the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation presented selected results from a survey on the relationship between HMRC and business. The report, written by researchers Judith Freedman, Francis Ng and John Vella, details the responses to a 2013 survey on the relationship between HMRC and businesses sent to around 1,800 companies with 30 follow up face-to-face interviews. The survey follows on from a previous survey conducted by two of the three researchers in 2008 (Judith Freedman, Geoffrey Loomer and John Vella, 2009. Corporate tax risk and tax avoidance: new approaches. British Tax Review, 1, pp.74-116). The 2013 survey covered co-operative compliance issues including the risk rating process and relationships with HMRC staff as well as dealings with tax disputes and the Litigation and Settlements Strategy. 

Research Highlight 2014

HMRC’s relationship with business

The relationship between HMRC and business has recently come under intense public and political scrutiny. In the summer of 2014, the Centre published a report on this relationship based on the views of large businesses collected through a questionnaire sent to around 1,800 companies with thirty follow up face-to-face interviews. 

The report primarily covers three aspects of this relationship. The first is the UK’s Co-Operative Compliance programme known as the Business Risk Review (BRR). The BRR had been previously examined by the Centre through a survey of tax directors undertaken in 2008. At the time, the programme was still bedding in and some uncertainty remained as to its operation. The programme has since matured and been rolled down to some smaller firms, and it was thus useful to revisit it. The report examines how the BRR has developed and evolved, how it is working across a range of businesses and whether it is achieving its stated goals.

The report also looks at HMRC staff, who are clearly critical to the relationship, and the Litigation and Settlement Strategy (LSS), which updated and formalised the manner in which HMRC resolve disputes with taxpayers, another critical feature of the relationship and the cause of much recent concern. By examining the design and operation of the LSS, the research sought to establish whether it struck the right balance so as to facilitate settlements which are in the public interest whilst ensuring that the necessary safeguards and controls are in place.

This research project thus seeks to improve our understanding of the relationship between HMRC and larger businesses. It informs the on-going debates by shedding light on the current state of affairs and suggesting the modifications or clarifications to the rules and guidance which ought to be made.

Judith Freedman, Francis Ng and John Vella, CBT Report, May 2014


Judith Freedman, Francis Ng and John Vella