The Treasury select committee says budget cuts, poor management and inflated expectations of IT projects have caused HM Revenue and Customs’ customer service standards to fall to “unacceptable levels”.
In a report on the effectiveness of HMRC, published last week, the committee says the evidence received in its inquiry was “disturbing”.
It says: “HMRC’s delivery of services to the general public has fallen to unacceptable levels in several areas. Many factors have contributed to this process – overly ambitious expectations for IT projects, sustained cuts in resources, a command and control management culture, increasingly complex tax legislation and the legacy of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise merger.
“The evidence we have received about the management culture wit-hin HMRC, supported by staff survey results, is very disturbing.
’HMRC’s delivery of services to the general public has fallen to unacceptable levels in several areas’
“There is a perception the department is run on a principle of close control and management scrutiny, with little opportunity for individuals to develop autonomy and exercise their skills.”
A National Audit Office report, published this month, shows HMRC has reported savings of £1.4bn since 2005. It must reduce its running costs by£1.6bn by 2015, cutting 10,000 staff in the process.
The select committee says HMRC must improve its record on the percentage of phone calls it picks up and draw up minimum standards for how quickly it responds to postal queries to stop other parts of the system getting clogged up by follow-up enquiries.
It adds that the flawed implementation of PAYE IT systems have done “significant damage” to public perception of HMRC but that historically low service standards indicate it cannot be the sole cause.
The report calls on HMRC to work with professional tax bodies and charities to develop customer service indicators to help counter poor service.