HMRC to start electronically scanning mail

As you can imagine, HMRC receives millions of items of mail every year and in a bid to improve its service, documents that relate to tax enquiries as well as employers’ compliance checks, will now be electronically scanned. Accountants will no doubt hope that this proves successful!

In order to easily identify scanable documents, they will be allocated a specific case reference and PO Box address.

An HMRC spokesman said that scanning the mail will ensure that documents are linked to the correct customer record and caseworkers will be able to access them within 36 hours. Not only should this speed up processes, it will also reduce the risk of mail getting lost.

Tax accountants have been complaining for a long time about the length of time HMRC takes to respond to enquiries sent by mail. The problem has not been helped by tens of thousands of redundancies in the department.

In other news, next week sees the demise of the domestic cheque guarantee card scheme. National Provincial Bank issued the first cheque guarantee card back in October 1965. At the time, it backed cheques up to £20 a day. The limit was raised to £50 in 1976 and by 1989 it had reached £250.

By 1990, Brits were using 4 billion cheques a year but as debit and credit cards became more popular, cheque usage declined. The majority of large retailers already refuse to take payment by cheque and although handwritten cheques are still accepted by businesses and individuals, payment will no longer be guaranteed. The Payments Council wants to end the central cheque clearing process by 2018.

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