Following the Chancellor’s Spring Budget on the 6th March, ACCA surveyed its members for their insight on the budget and proposed actions. The results show that the majority of accountants believe that core issues failed to be addressed in the budget, and that there was a disconnect between the Chancellor and the reality of small businesses and the UK economy in 2024.

ACCA has repeatedly called on the Chancellor to invest in HMRC, as the service struggles to keep up with demand, resulting in major hold-ups for simple requests such as VAT numbers. Two thirds (66%) of ACCA members said that poor HMRC services were having a negative impact on their clients, with small businesses bearing the brunt of this issue. Productivity and efficiency were highlighted as the two main areas suffering as a result of poor HMRC services. This is a 14% increase in negative sentiment from the previous ACCA survey in October 2023, demonstrating that SMEs are reaching breaking point with the service.

Feeling about the UK economic outlook remained on the negative side, with just 4% reporting their clients were more likely to invest in the UK in the 12 months following the Spring Budget announcement. However, 34% said the raising of the VAT registration threshold from £85,000 to £90,000 was somewhat positive, although as one respondent noted, “the VAT threshold is a problem economically but the rise has no real effect, it still looks like a problem they don’t know how to solve.”

This apathetic feeling around the Chancellor’s budget was reflected across responses, with over two thirds (69%) believing that the announcements made on the 6th March would bring either no change or negative impact to the UK financial outlook. One respondent said it was “a budget full of words and Labour baiting but short on meaningful incentives.”

Commenting on this, ACCA UK head of strategic and technical engagement, Glenn Collins, said: “ACCA outlined its concerns regarding the state of HMRC services in our letters to the Chancellor for both the Spring Budget in March 2024 and the Autumn Statement in November 2023. Our members have repeatedly raised that dealing with HMRC is the number one issue they face in their daily work.

“Repeatedly we hear from our members of delays around basic requests such as VAT registration numbers, and a severe lack of skilled staff to handle more complex enquiries.

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“This most recent survey reiterates previous feedback to the Chancellor and HMRC, and shows that in the space of six months service levels have declined even more.

“ACCA will continue to call for the Chancellor to properly fund HMRC, raise the levels of service standards, and to lean on accredited finance professionals wherever possible to ensure accuracy across the board.”