A few days ago I received this exasperated email from a taxpayer, who had valiantly tried to file online without 100% success.
I have edited out certain portions, so as to avoid him/her being identified, but have been given permission to publish it.
Please could someone advise as to the contact details of Linda Maslen?
"Two days ago I tried as a simple tax payer to fill in my return on-line for the first time this year. It should have been the simplest of returns with the minimum of entries, one for my private pension, one for my late wife's pension interest (very small) from three bank accounts and one entry for a charitable contribution.
I should add that I am far from being ignorant when it comes to computers as I worked in XXXXXX for most of my working life.
My first problem was that because I had ticked the box saying I was in receipt of a pension the form went on to ask me how much state pension and other benefits I was receiving.
Since it is zero in both cases I tried to enter zero, the system wouldn't accept zero and after a considerable time and a phone call to the HMRC helpline which remained unanswered after thirty minutes I resorted to my own devices and worked out that the only way round the problem was to enter £1.00 in the state pension and other benefit boxes, money I never received.
The next snag I hit was when it started asking me about unpaid tax in previous years, this time not only would it not accept zero, but it wouldn't accept £1.00 either so I was forced to redial the number of the HMRC help line.
After forty minutes my call was answered by a young lady from HMRC's call centre who was aggressive beyond belief - yes I may have been frustrated at this point but at no point was I rude or aggressive back, I even tried to calm her down, by telling her that my grandmother was born in the call centre's location, but to absolutely no avail.
I was expecting this young lady to talk me through the whole form to ensure that I was filling it in accurately since I was having such difficulty, but the only thing she was interested in was finding out what error messages I was receiving, she flatly ignored any other question relating to anything else on the form.
She did finally sort me out but only after a very unpleasant telephone conversation.
I have to say that I can't really blame her for her attitude since I dread to think the sort of angry people the poor girl has to deal with on a minute by minute basis.
My first point would be that this on-line tax return has not been properly evaluated and yet HMRC are pushing people into using it as the HMRC's preferred way of receiving tax returns.
My second point is regarding the intolerable delays in HMRC call centres answering calls and my third is the very unprofessional service I received when I did get through. On this latter point I don't blame call centre staff, but their managers who are failing to train them properly.
I subsequently went onto the internet and discovered the name of the HMRC director in charge of call centres. I eventually came up with the name Linda Maslen who is described as Director of Contact Services, but try as I might-and believe me I have spent hours trying-I couldn't locate an address or any other contact details for Linda Maslen.
So the bottom line on that one is that it appears to be impossible to contact HMRC's Director of CONTACT Services, mm.
I did discover however that some time back the HMRC call centre - I refuse to call it a service centre - was up for some kind of quality award a fact that Ms Maslen was more than happy to crow about in the various HMRC web sites where she is prominently featured.
It would appear to me that the highly paid executives of HMRC are more than happy to hide behind their lowly paid underlings who are sitting in the front line trenches taken a daily barrage of flak from disgruntled taxpayers while they sit quietly in their plush offices boasting about awards.
I wonder if Linda Maslen actually knows where the call centre is?
Please feel free to add this email to what I am sure is a growing pile of complaints that you are receiving about the lack of service from HMRC. I am at a loss as to what can be done about them so anything you can do to sort out the shambles that is HMRC will be more than welcome.
PS According to HMRC after I had submitted my tax return they owe me less than £2, I shan't hold my breath on expecting to receive it in the near future. In any case my confidence in HMRC's online return is so low that I doubt if this actually reflects a true record of my tax affairs for 2009-2010."
Tax does have to be taxing.
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