HMRC staff and local MPs take part in small business work experience

Tax officials and local politicians will gain hands-on experience working within small businesses as part of a Forum of Private Business (FPB) initiative.

The business group and Government officials hope the project will help develop a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners in order to improve working relationships.

More than 70 politicians took part in last year's 'Business Buddy' scheme which saw them placed in SMEs within their local constituencies.

The initiative has now been extended to include HMRC staff, who took part in their first placement visiting a branch of chartered accountants in Reading.

Chief executive of the FPB, Phil Orford, said: "Clearly, there's no substitute for first-hand experience. We are widening the Business Buddy scheme so that HMRC officials can take part in order to gain a greater understanding of what it takes to grow and run a small firm, and also explore how they can work together more effectively, for the good of the economy as a whole."

An HMRC spokesman said the initiative provides a unique opportunity for staff to get to the heart of what life is like for small business owners.

"Understanding the challenges small firms face helps us design better services for the future and support them in getting their tax right quickly and easily," HMRC said.

Business owners were also given the opportunity to discuss some of the biggest hurdles facing SMEs today. In a survey about their experiences of the scheme, 87 per cent of respondents said that the state of the UK economy was a major issue they had brought up with their local political representative.

Local business issues, regulation, and consumer and business confidence were also discussed as issues of concern, as well as taxation, health and safety and workforce skills.

Business owners said they hoped the meetings had ended in agreed action about how to improve the UK's business environment.