Press release: Tax experts’ concern about a ‘digitally distracted’ HMRC backed by new report

The Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) has called for a thorough rethink by the Government about the resourcing of HMRC after the authority was criticised for its service to personal taxpayers in a report today.

HMRC cut the number of staff working in personal tax from 26,000 to 15,000 between 2010-11 and 2014-15, according to today’s National Audit Office (NAO) report. Some of the problems caused by this loss of staff was supposed to be dealt with through the digitalisation of services.

The expected fall in demand for telephone advice because of digitalisation did not materialise.

HMRC call service levels 'collapsed' in 2015, according to the report.  People phoning the self-assessment tax queries line spent an average of 47 minutes on hold as the problem peaked in October 2015.  The NAO estimated the cost to callers in wasted time and call costs was £4 per person for every £1 saved by HMRC.  It has significantly improved since then, but the average time to answer the phone (now about 6 minutes), may still seem too long for many taxpayers.

Michael Steed, ATT President, said:

“There needs to be a thorough review of HMRC’s resourcing because an inadequately funded and inefficient operating tax system affects everyone.

“It is imperative that HMRC ensures that a well-functioning and well-informed service to personal taxpayers is in place before it goes further with digitalisation. A digitally distracted HMRC is focusing so much on the projects related to the future delivery of services that it has evidently been paying far too little attention to the here and now.

“We are concerned that even though telephone service delivery has improved, the responses show that HMRC staff lack training on basic aspects of tax and so incorrect advice is too often given to taxpayers.”

Michael Steed added:

“The under-funding of HMRC has inevitably taken its toll on HMRC staff. It is to their credit that the front-line staff continue to attempt to provide some form of service to a public that has become increasingly frustrated by ludicrously long phone waiting times and other major shortfalls in service as outlined in this welcome report.”

Posted in: News