HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Monday, 29 June 2009

The American Way

American Way
Patrick Collinson of The Guardian tells us how the IRS (the US version of HMRC) run their call centres:

"A baffled reader this week asked for help filling in tax forms for the US Inland Revenue Service. Not being familiar with apostilles, notarizing and (fortunately, I feel) alien spouses, I was as baffled as him by the baroque language. The form is subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act, but in a triumph for bureaucracy you find separate information about this … on another piece of paperwork.

I gingerly rang the IRS helpline in Philadelphia. In the city of brotherly love, things started to improve. The helpline is staffed 20 hours a day, compared with HMRC's 12 hours a day.

My call was answered after just a few rings. And the (very helpful) individual who answered the phone immediately gave me his name and unique identification number.

The Americans could learn a thing or two from us about the use of plain English, but can teach us about running a call centre

Whilst keeping HMRC call centres open for longer would cost more money, something which the government has run out of, I don't see why call centre staff cannot give taxpayers (sorry, "customers") a unique identification number.

Why can't that be done?

Tax does have to be taxing.

Tax Investigation for Dummies, by Nick Morgan, provides a good and easy to read guide for anyone caught up in an HMRC tax investigation. A must read for any Self Assessment taxpayer.

Click the link to read about: Tax Investigation for Dummies

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  1. Give your name, an ID number?
    HMRC is a mess so that would allow managers to zero in on the individual who took the call and harass them and make them feel worthless, rather than take responsibility themselves even though they earn thousands of pounds more than the AAs or AOs.
    HMRC lost their Investor In People award so why should staff bust their balls for them.

  2. It's simple, it's not LEAN. LEAN doesn't allow a call centre adviser to take ownership of a case from start to finish. Allowing an adviser to deal with a case from start to finish would mean that the HMRC board would have to admit they've wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers money on something whose only contribution has been to increase the sales of whiteboards.

  3. Customer references?


    In HMRC?

    Are you all on drugs or something?

  4. Centralised call centres are a lunacy that HMRC feel would work. My previous manager at HMRC stopped us from taking informants' calls as there was a centralised hotline number for them to call. She was ex-customs, and felt that a remote centre was the way forward. She even went so far as to institute disciplinary proceedings against 2 colleagues who observed a local business. That was when the cluelessness commenced, and has continued to this date.

  5. "Whilst keeping HMRC call centres open for longer would cost more money, something which the government has run out of, I don't see why call centre staff cannot give taxpayers (sorry, "customers") a unique identification number. "

    I am not sure what extra service you think this would provide. Although we do have unique numbers like you want we have previous examples of scammers obtaining these numbers and using them to try and obtain information they are not entitled to.

    Each and every call centre advisor is required to give their name at the beginning of the call and full name if asked. All the calls are recorded and giving the name, date and time of the call means it is instantly retrievable from the database as necessary.

    I fail to so see what copying the American system would give us that we don't have now.

  6. I have always found their phone support pretty good. Must be just lucky.

  7. HMRC has only just averted a strike in the Contact Centres so it would be diffuclt to increase the opening hours especially as weekend opening is also a difficult subject.

    HMRC is looking to reduce the opening hours of some enquiry centres (a trial has been done) or close the smallest ones they want everyone to use the internet so they don't have to pay or employ any staff.

  8. "I have always found their phone support pretty good. Must be just lucky."

    This reminds me of the NHS. You regularly hear of survey results in which most people say the NHS is dreadful. At the same time, almost all respondents say the experiences they've had of the NHS have been very good. When the discrepancy is pointed out to people who have answered both that the NHS is crap and that they've had good experiences, they are convinced that they've just been really, really lucky!

    Maybe, but perhaps it's more likely that it's much more in the interests of opposition parties (and Labour were at least as guilty in the 90s as the Tories are now!), journalists and even (sharp intake of breath!) bloggers to scream rabidly about the problems that come out, without acknowledging that the vast majority who interact with organisations like the NHS and HMRC (mustn't call them "customers", no no; imagine using that word to describe someone who receives services in exchange for paying money) have good experiences!

    OK, OK, I'm prepared to retract "good experiences" on the grounds that the very nature of these organisations means that one has to take your money without (setting aside the debate about the nature of democracy) your full, ungrudging consent, and the other is highly likely to involved on the day you die! Let's settle on: not too bad an experience.

  9. What difference would giving an ID number make? HMRC contact centre staff can give their full name if requested, why isn't that enough?

  10. 'HMRC lost their Investor In People award so why should staff bust their balls for them'

    HMRC lost IIP quit simply because it doesn't give a flying fuck about us who wore here.

  11. ...well said.

    The vicious, bullying, senior management regime which is currently in place would no doubt see IIP as a sign of softness which is alien to their nature.

  12. I work for hmrc and can verify that the department is a shambles.There is no leadership from the top and some middle management seem to think that the only way to progress their career is to bully staff into working silly hours or doing things that do not make any sense.
    Evere since Gordon Brown was chancellor and had this idea of a merger it has gone wrong and now that he is PM things have gone from bad to worse. I know of companies that have gone bust in the so called credit crunch only to resurrect themselves the next day in the same line of business from the same premises. These directors are serial offenders and are getting away with vast sums of money as the management do not consider the new companies to be a high risk even though they have done the same things on numerous occasions.
    I could name numerous companies that have donethis and got away with it.
    HMRC are more prepared to go after the wee men at the bottom than the big men.
    If the truth came out about hmrc as it is today, nobody would believe it. If I could start a campaign today it would be to separate the departments, but that would never happen as Gordon Brown would have to admit failure.
    The department is too concerned with cutting jobs and closing down offices these days, whereas it should be putting the public and the staff first

  13. You already have an ID number its called a National Insurance Number, they've been around for quite a while, most people should have one. If you don't have one why not visit your local Jobcentre and ask for one.