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MPs slam “disturbing” fall in HMRC service levels

Budget cuts and inflated expectations of IT projects have lowered the quality of HMRC’s interaction with the public to unacceptable levels, according to the Treasury select committee.

In a report published today, Administration and effectiveness of HM Revenue and Customs, the committee says the evidence it has received in its inquiry had been “disturbing”.

It says: “HMRC’s delivery of services to the general public has fallen to unacceptable levels in several areas. May 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”

According to a National Audit Office report published earlier this month, HMRC has reported £1.4bn of savings since 2005 and must reduce its running costs by £1.6bn by 2015, cutting 10,000 staff in the process.

The TSC report says: “We are particularly worried as there is no evidence the methods of management will deploy to find ‘efficiencies’ and ‘cost savings’ have changed in any substantial way.”

The report says HMRC must improve its record on the percentage of telephone 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 people following up enquiries.

It adds that the flawed implementation of PAYE IT systems, has 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 the HMRC to work with professional tax bodies and charities to develop customer service indicators to help counter poor service.

The report says the ‘command and control’ management style is likely to harm staff morale leading to disengagement and poor performance, adding that the professionalism of these staff is vital to delivering improvements.

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Comments

There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Would be really nice for the Goverment to get there house in order before intruding into how IFA should work and service there customers

  2. Why the surprise at the awful service from so-called public servants. Most of central and local government wouldn’t know what constitutes good service even if it jumped up and bit them on the ass.
    Sack the lot and start again

  3. So, what’s the difference between HMRC and just about every other State run department.

    Overpaid, under-qualified people getting paid to shuffle bits of paper around their desks.

    Get rid of income tax, CGT, IHT, corporation tax and replace the lot with VAT. Those that spen pay tax – those that don’t (or can’t spend) don’t pay tax – it’s fair, it’s unavoidable, and it get’s rid of a million pen-pushers from civil servants to accountants to lawyers.

    Of course, this is ‘blue sky’ thinking which various governments pretend they engage in, but never actually do.

  4. As a tax professional its nothing that we didnt already know. But also there are crazy systems in place such as if a person wants to come off the dole and become self employed it takes 6 to 8 weeks to allocate a UTR (unique tax reference) number. This often means that for example building industry contractors wont even take you on until you receive the UTR and meaning that people carry on claiming benefit for up to 2 months!

  5. You have to laugh at the man in charge stating that they had recovered more tax than in previous years and tax avoidance was being closed down. However for the man in the street they failed on numerous occasions to get their coding wrong.

    Worst of all it seems their is no accountability for such errors. They even fail to read your correspondence when you sent it to them. Yet how many were paid a bonus last year.

    What a joke if we got it as wrong as they have over the last three years we would have been fined.

  6. Richard Jenkinson 1st August 2011 at 9:42 am

    I received my self assessment calculation last month including underpaid tax of £190 from last years tax code. Turned out to be from tax year 2006/7 which I paid by cheque in November 2007.
    In spite of numerous reports regarding their woeful service levels no improvements are likely to happen. Getting through on the phone is a farce, having to listen to 2-3 minutes of recorded garbage and then normally giving up in disgust after a further 5 minutes of being held in a queue.
    They are a total disgrace.

  7. Did it really need a Committee of PAID MP’s to conduct this survey?

    I could have told them all this in two minutes – FREE OF CHARGE!

    But then, I am an efficient taxpayer and not a Civil Servant!

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