Staff at HMRC have backed industrial action over budget cuts at the department, with the Public and Commercial Services Union claiming reductions in funding are undermining its ability to collect taxes.
In a ballot of union members at HMRC, 52.8 per cent backed a strike while 77.2 per cent voted for other forms of industrial action. Critics are likely to seize on the fact that the vote only attracted a turnout of 33.3 per cent.
In a statement, the PCS says since HMRC was formed in 2005, 30,000 jobs have been cut leaving it without the resources to collect taxes. It says it is currently fighting plans to cut a further 10,000 jobs from the department by 2014/15.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “When reducing the budget deficit is supposedly the Government’s number one priority, it makes absolutely no economic sense to cut ever more staff from the very department responsible for collecting the taxes that fund all our other public services.
“The Government should be investing to improve services, tackle the tax dodgers and get our economy back on its feet.”
Union reps at HMRC will meet in the coming weeks to decide what action to take.
The PCS cites an estimate by Tax Justice Network founder Richard Murphy that £120bn of tax is evaded, avoided or goes uncollected every year. It was included in a report by the Treasury select subcommittee published in March. The Treasury rejected the claim putting the figure a £35bn and adding that 90 per cent of due taxes are collected.
In the run up to last summer’s strikes, Business Secretary Vince Cable warned the Government may toughen strike laws if unions take industrial action that causes serious economic damage and London Mayor Boris Johnson called for a 50 per cent minimum turn-out for a strike ballot to be valid.