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Jersey's tax rate saga: Comptroller moves to 'clarify facts'

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STRUGGLING to understand your new tax rate..? Well, it could be your fault...

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That is the message from the Comptroller of Revenue who has issued a statement to ‘clarify the facts’ after hundreds of Islanders went online to vent their anger over the problems which have beset the tax department.

For months Islanders have complained that they were either still waiting for their new ITIS rate, have been placed on a much higher rate than expected or have been assessed based on their 2017 tax return.

And their misery has been compounded by waits of up to an hour and a half to speak to a member of staff at the department in La Motte Street.

Yesterday, Comptroller of Revenue Richard Summersgill issued a statement apologising for the delays – but said Islanders and employers could be at least partly to blame for any inaccuracies with their ITIS rate.

‘There have been numerous comments in the media and social media suggesting that the new Revenue Jersey IT system is getting Islanders’ taxes wrong. I would like to clarify the facts,’ he said.

‘While the new Revenue Management System experienced a number of glitches when it was rolled out, the system is calculating taxes correctly and is a vast improvement on the outdated systems that it replaced,’ added Mr Summersgill.

He said there were various reasons why Islanders might think their taxes are wrong, including:

  • The new printed assessments being ‘different and more detailed than what Islanders are used to’ and potentially ‘confusing’. He said that work was being carried out to ‘improve them so they are clearer and easier to understand’.

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  • Islanders and employers sending ITIS data which contains errors, which the new system is picking up and reflecting in assessments.

He said that examples of wrong details being submitted included ‘taxpayers not updating their circumstances in good time’, a ‘taxpayer and an employer using an effective rate issued in 2014, which they have not updated since’ and ‘taxpayers who have accrued arrears that they have not paid off, which the new system has picked up and included in their new assessment’.

Mr Summersgill added: ‘I sincerely apologise for the delays in completing the 2018 assessments, and for the poor level of service we have been providing to Islanders, which has led to longer waiting times to speak to an adviser, both in person and on the phone.

‘Staffing levels and the implementation of the new system have had knock-on effects on our service, but we are doing everything we can to complete the 2018 assessments and get service levels back up to the standards that Islanders expect.

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‘The launch of online filing later this month will significantly reduce the number of manual assessments we need to do, which will also help to improve services. I urge people to file online this year if they can.’

About 9,500 out of the 60,000 tax returns are still to be processed.

The government said that anyone who does not understand why their rate has changed should contact the department and clarify their situation.

They said the average wait at the help desk is 15 minutes but at peak times can be over an hour. The telephone average wait time is six minutes. Some customers may wait longer, but more advisers are on duty during busy periods.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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