Tuesday 26 March 2013
The Treasury and Resources Board has agreed to the Income Tax Office's request to maintain its revised Thursday arrangements in order to continue dealing with the tax assessment backlog.
At present the office's telephone lines and public counter are open to the public all day on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For the past few months, on Thursdays the office has closed the telephone system all day, and it closes the public counter at 2pm. The Income Tax Office website is unaffected.
During the period that the revised Thursday arrangements have been in place, the Income Tax Office has made significant progress in dealing with the backlog, and by the end of February 2013 had assessed over 6,000 returns received this year (approximately 25% of those returns received) compared to 3,430 (23%) in 2012 and 2,817 (19%) in 2011.
The Income Tax Office's compliance work has also meant that an increased number of tax returns are being submitted - 11,000 additional returns between 2007 (42,000) and 2012 (53,000); and 5,000 additional returns in January 2013 compared to January 2012.
Guernsey's Treasury and Resources Minister, Deputy Gavin St Pier, said:
"Guernsey's Income Tax Office has assessed 75% more income tax returns in the first two months of this year than it did last year, and over twice as many as the year before. While we accept that the revised Thursday arrangement has inconvenienced some members of the public, it is clear that it has also played a significant role in improving the overall efficiency of the office during a very busy period and in dealing with the backlog of tax returns.
For that reason the Board has agreed to extend the revised Thursday arrangement until the level of tax returns awaiting assessment is reduced to a level consistent with previous years. However we have made it clear that this arrangement remains under review, and that it will not be in place indefinitely. We have also been assured that the Income Tax Office is taking other steps to deal with the backlog of returns, which we fully support."
Revising open-to-the public hours on Thursdays is one of the measures that the Income Tax Office has taken to deal with the increased number of tax returns and to reduce the backlog. Others include:
- Introducing an automatic assessment facility in 2012
- Encouraging more tax payers to file their returns earlier and online
- Utilising the current Collection Section to fast-track the assessments for those Guernsey tax payers with the most straight forward tax arrangements
- Ensuring that the longest-standing returns waiting to be assessed are being dealt with by the most experienced officers to expedite assessments
Rob Gray, Director of Income Tax, said:
"We are dealing with more tax returns than ever before as a consequence of our increased compliance activity to ensure people submit their tax returns. We are aware that we can always make improvements in the way that we serve the Guernsey tax payer, and we are striving to do that with the systems that we have put in place and the way that we are training and deploying our staff.
I can assure all of Guernsey's taxpayers that while we may be closed to them for a small part of the week, we are working very hard on their behalf at all times. We certainly do not want to inconvenience them on Thursdays for any longer than we need to, and we hope that the other measures we have introduced will mean that we do not need to repeat the reduction in open-to-the-public hours in 2014."
The Income Tax Office consulted with the Guernsey Society of Chartered and Certified Accountants' members before requesting the Treasury & Resources Board's agreement to their request to extend the revised Thursday arrangements.