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.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


My thanks to loyal reader Tony Sutton, who alerted me to an article he wrote for Deaf4Life about the problems he had trying to get a claim pack from HMRC yesterday.

Here is the article in full:

"Right, this is the actual event of what has happened today (Monday 22nd August 2010) of my trip to the HMRC Office in Norwich which ended with almost bad experience for me.

I needed to make a claim on the HMRC website, but at the moment, it's not available to do it online as the site says "These online services are still temporarily closed".

And the website says that I can pick up the paperwork at either HMRC Enquiry Centre or Jobcentre Plus Office.

After looking up the address and mapping the route on Google Maps, I decided to go to the Jobcentre Plus Office as the office was the most closest to walk from work.

Lunchtime came, so I head over to Jobcentre Plus Office and asked one of the guy using paper & pen to see if they have the paperwork/pack. He said they do not have anything I needed and advised me to use the telephone service. It took him about 2 or 3 seconds before he realised I cannot do that. Then he went off & spoke to someone else. He came back and advised me to go to the HMRC Enquiry Centre. I thanked him for his help and left the building.

Walked over to the HMRC Enquiry Centre and was greeted by a member of staff. Again, using paper & pen, I asked for the paperwork/pack. Once again, she told me to use the telephone service. Only that she did not realise and I had to point out that I am deaf and cannot use it. All of sudden, she was a bit panicky, didn’t know what to say. She told me to wait while she went into the manager's office to have a chat.

She came back and said that I could contact the office using textphone. I told her I did not have one at home or at work. Then she said I would have to make an appointment to see someone just to get the pack. Huh? She invited me to her desk and she looked at the calendar to try to find a free date for me. All different dates were offered, I'm busy on these dates.

During that time, the other member of staff led other people to the desk where I was sitting down and they looked fed up because we were communicating by paper & pen. I thought it were rude for the staff to put their customers next to me. Where's my privacy?

At this time, the manager came over and they both discussed what other options are. They told me to come back in a few hours time and they can do an appointment for me on the same day. No I cannot was my reply, because I have to go back to work.

All I wanted to do is to collect the pack and go back to work. That's all.

But no, I have to see someone just to get the pack. And that I need to show them 2 forms of ID - i.e. my driving licence and a passport. Nowhere on their website states that I need them to pick up the pack. Hum ho...

All of sudden, the manager/the lady (can't remember who said first) said they have a textphone in one of their office that I could use to call HMRC to get the pack posted to me. What? After all of this faffing about which lasted 10 minutes or so, they say it now? Why not say that at the first place?

They told me to wait in the other room. On the corner of my eye, I can see them rushing around like headless chicken, trying to figure out how to get the textphone equipment to be set up & work. I guess they rarely take it out...

The manager asked for my NI number and I gave him my NI card. While waiting, it dawned on me... why did the staff ask me for 2 forms of IDs just to get the pack, when I can get the pack over the phone (or even online when it's available) without them asking me for any forms of IDs? Do you see the flaw in this?

Anyway, after a while of wait, they lead me to the other room where there's a textphone and a keyboard attached to it. She read the user guide carefully (it has words and picture showing what to do). She followed the guide but somehow the text phone did not work. She tried again but still not working.

I looked at the guide and found that she was doing it wrong. I pointed it out to her (the photo showed very clearly how, but she didn’t follow that). To her credit, she quickly corrected it and it worked this time.

It rang. It connected to Text Relay. Then it connected to the number that she dialled. It went through the options. I picked the option I wanted to use. And it put me on hold. Knowing what HMRC is like, I knew it will be a long hold. And we waited.

During that time, the manager kept coming back and checking up on us, seeing if we've made any progress with the phone call. But we were still on hold.

And holding.... holding.... holding... holding.... holding for a long time.

The manager came back for the final time and asked me some questions on paper and I answered his questions. He decided that the phone call is not needed. He asked for my DOB, my address and my employment details. I provided them to him.

And I got the pack.


I was happy that I got the pack finally, but at the same time, I was thinking - why did I have to go through all of that? It has left me very tired, very frustrated and annoyed that I have wasted a lot of time doing that when it can be easily resolved right at the start. Overall, I think this has taken me about 50 minutes from the start to the finish.

I finally walked back to work and it was almost 2 hours (20 mins round walking trip) since I left for my lunch break when it could have been easily resolved within 30 - 40 minutes!

I feel I was lucky that I was able to do this as I was able to communicate with them via paper & pen & using English language, but what about other Deaf people who are very strong BSL and is unable to do a proper English structure to communicate with them - will they be able to do this and have the issue resolved like me? My honest answer - I don't think so. I fear they will just say no and let them go on their way, which sadly does happen now and then.

Yes, they did provide me with a textphone, but please do it at the start without having for me to go through all of this faffing around. Their website also needs to be very clear that I need to bring some sort of other documents before I turn up.

To end this, I'd like to say a big thank you to the HMRC staff in Norwich (if you're reading this) - to the manager and the lady who sat down with me when we were making the phone call. Thank you for understanding and for being patient with me.

Anyway, that's my write up of my trip to the HMRC Office in Norwich and my experience with them. Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Needs to go straight to an MP and probably to the Daily Mail as well! Shambles.

  2. Shame he was busy for every single appointment offered. How on earth does he ever get in to see the doctor?????

  3. The 2nd response just about sums things up - do you work for HMRC by any remote chance? big and brave enough or stupid enough to give your contact details please!
    No, thought not, crawl back under your stone creep!

    To Tony Sutton, I have to remain anonymous at the moment, but I do work for HMRC and all I can say is sorry for what you have been put through. Somehow I don't believe you will have been the first and certainly not the last.
    Why you could not have obtained what you requested at the outset is beyond me.

  4. I agree with 17.22, my sentiments exactly. If that 14.20 moron works for HMRC, is it any wonder that they have such a bad reputation? Needless to say, he completely misses the point about Tony's comments. And what point is he trying to make, other than being sarcastic about somebody with a disability?

    Having said that, 17.22 proves that there are decent people working for them.

    I am hearing impaired, and the ignorance shown by the second contributor is all too common.

    Deaf people don't ask for much, just a little patience and help at times. We can all face some form of disability in our life, even Mr Sarcasm. Stupid prat.

  5. As an enquiry centre worker what should have happened if he had two forms of ID then they should have filled the left hand details on front page and given it him over the counter. If he had no ID then they should have said he needed to come back with two forms of ID and they would give him an appointment.

    No Tax Credit forms can be issued without two forms of ID so if he had not brought any ID the Enquiry Centre staff were quite right under the current guidelines to tell him to come back preferably at an appointment if he had ID then we would use discretion and just give out a form.

    In our office a few months ago we had the situation where an adviser called a "technical expert" during an appointment and the person on the phone refused to deal with it unless the person answered the security questions the adviser said they deaf they cannot do that but she wouldn't have it and a future appointment had to be arranged until a solution could be found.

    Incidentally the disgraceful charges that the interpreter service charge £140 and travelling costs for a 30 minute appointment.

  6. Customer service my ar@e!
    Someone should lose their job over this and I don't mean the front line staff!
    As an example of joined up service and mixed messages its pathetic.
    If you don't need to produce 2 forms of ID to get these forms via phone or internet WTF do you need them in person?!
    "Hello children, can you guess which system the Organised criminals will be using?"
    They do make it so easy.

    Oh yes, and what about a letter of apology HMRC, that would be "customer service"!
    If this is an example of HMRC Vision, Values and crap, the sooner they get rid of Pacesetter the better.

  7. Uhm. Why did the adviser not offer to act as an intermediary for the deaf person and relay the written bits over the phone?

  8. Enquiry Centre staff are not allowed to talk on the telephone for a customer also the contact centre staff are told to only accept information from the actual person again for security reasons.

    If you get a form from the telephone call the id is done via questions which the adviser checks against the computer if you do it online you have to fill the whole form in online it's about not giving out blank forms for people to copy and give to other people to try and falsely claim which is why the front is filled in before one is issued.

  9. I thought I should tell you about the current mindset of the Enquiry Centre bigwigs and how they are manipulating stats to get rid of staff and eventually Enquiry Centre's altogether.

    When you walk into an Enquiry Centre you will notice the floorwalker has a clipboard with a sheet on it this sheet consists of amongst other things clumns headed A-G.

    Column A - Is for general enquiries that don't need an appointment or a telephone call eg getting a form, handing in a piece of post etc.

    Column B - Customer making a telephone call

    Column C - Customer using the enquiry centre internet machine

    Column D - A future appointment

    Column E - An immediate appointment, usually a payment request

    Column F - Failed telephone call requiring an appointment

    Column G - Failed internet

    Now here's the clever bit column A is dismissed altogether by the stats team as it is classed as being a task that an enquiry centre isn't needed for and the public would get the information elsewhere if they didn't exist.

    Column B - These are also dismissed as telephone could be set up in libraries, post offices etc so Enquiry Centre not needed for these

    Column C - These are for customers who use the internet by themselves if a floorwalker helps them it goes down as an A as most customers who need an EC internet don't have their own they usually need a hand so C's are very rare.

    Column D - the most important for EC future as now only appointments are calcualted towards the future staff and opening hours of an EC if you don't have enough D's then the EC staff will be reduced and may not open everyday.

    Column E - As of 12 September no EC will give out an Emergency Tax Credit payment will be sent by courier so E's will be non existent.

    Column F - If customer is not satisfied with telephone call or gets referred to EC then F is recorded.

    Column G - Barely ever used as most internet use doesn't result in an appointment.

    So to summerise the only thing keeping EC's open now are appointments all the other uses are dismissed that is how they are justifying the reduction.

    So if the staff look miffed or bedraggled it's not because we don't care we just know we done for and the last finger nail has nearly gone on the cliff edge.

  10. Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Uhm. Why did the adviser not offer to act as an intermediary for the deaf person and relay the written bits over the phone?

    23 August 2011 20:27

    EC Staff are not allowed to talk for a customer over the phone Contact Centre staff are told to only allow information from a third party after the individual has confirmed their id checks so therefore the deaf person cannot confirm these Contact Centre adviser cannot continue with the call. It's not the EC staff or CC staff it's the rules applied from above and their are a lot of computer misuse investigations going on at the moment so no one is taking any chances with security.

  11. Contact centre = contact = enhanced "customer" experience = enhanced compliance?

    No contact - negative "customer" experience = more tax gap?

    Read the truth about the real Tax Havens in Treasure Islands by Nicholas Shaxson - you will see some of the answers...
    Put 2 & 2 together and you might even see why HMRC is drifting in the direction it is - just join the dots.

  12. @19.33

    "I am hearing impaired, and the ignorance shown by the second contributor is all too common"

    Are hearing impaired people unable to attend appointments offered to them as a result of their disability?

    Why is the poster at 14.20 ignorant?

  13. @17.22

    "big and brave enough or stupid enough to give your contact details please!
    No, thought not, crawl back under your stone creep!"

    But you of course "have" to remain nameless. Why? You self important tit. Do you think your employers actually give a toss?

  14. I'm guessing it's an NTC claim pack? They can't be ordered over the internet and a phonecall doesn't guarantee a pack. Standard security is needed first and if a person can't get through that then they get referred to an enquiry centre and that's where the 2 forms of ID would be needed. So on that side of the article fair play all by the book. The EC manager if that's the only info they took perhaps didn't get the all details someone would be asked on a normal call but I could be wrong. The hold time mentioned is unavoidable currently given the fact that less than half of the people on the NTC system seem to have renewed so there are queues of 300+ of people with terminated claims.
    With regard the rest yeah certainly seems like it was a faff on, lack of training quite likely a factor. And also while there will be a sizable hearing impaired community it's perhaps not a community people would have a great deal of experience with so a bit of fear compounded with poor training also depends on who tries to help you.
    But certainly apologies on behalf of HMRC for a wasted afternoon.

  15. This is what you get when ****wits at the top try to micromanage what happens at the bottom. HMRC are typical of the top down process driven mania that infects all British institutions where following procedural steps is more important than the end result. In fact it is the exact opposite of true bottom up quality improvement regimes where staff are.allowed to exercise a little initiative. No wonder HMRC the institution is failing so spectacularly.

  16. Err... There are deaf people and relatives of deaf people who work for HMRC. Assuming the EC had an office nearby or even in the same building and that the enquiry was urgent perhaps the best thing would have been for an e-mail to go out requesting someone to interpret. That is a bit of a hit and miss approach though.

    Unfortunately BSL isn't a common language and even if it was HMRC seems keen to ignore EQIA's when making their decisions so it's unlikely they will make a provision for a BSL interpreter at every EC especially as has been pointed out they wish to get rid of the service altogether.

    I think poster #1 is having the typical knee jerk reaction to something they don't really care about, but yes maybe something ought to be communicated to the MP that suffocating EC's does not allow HMRC to provide a service to a cross section of society who may not be able to deal with their tax and/or some benefit claims any other way.

    (and no I don't work in one!)

    PS to Poster #1, whilst you are on the bandwagon... the Daily Mails own website is not completely accessible to blind people due to commercial websites insistence in including non-standard HTML code.

  17. Just to append to the last post, t am not suggesting that a deaf person should interpret speech for another deaf person.

    It was to highlight that there is no reason for HMRC to be completely oblivious to the need for BSL to be used sometimes.

  18. Some basics if you allegedly provide a service to 2customers"

    You have to make your service available to all

    Within that group will be minorities including ethnic language, disabilities etc

    The law states that these minorities have to be accommodated, it not optional, its mandatory

    Once you understand those basics you then apply common sense and practicality, oh feck, I forgot about Pacesetter

    I genuinely don't believe the top tiers don't have a clue what is going on at the workface and that there is an invisible barrier or impermeable membrane restricting the flow of reality based information

    Perhaps someone at TCS level will pick up on this particular post?

  19. @3.44am & 3.39am

    Mate, I can assure you it's not a knee jerk reaction. How could it be? HMRC has steadily been sliding into the abyss for 6 years and it's only now that momentum is gathering to bring about change. Hardly a knee jerk reaction! And personally I stand by my comment that this needs to be brought to an MP. In reality only the MPs have the ability to change things whether we like that or not. This should be highlighted to an MP; it's indicative of the underlying malaise and approach being adopted from the top. I also suggest that the media are involved as unless it's brought to the public attention then there is no real pressure brought to bear on Parliament. Is it coincidence that the Select Committee opened their investigation last autumn only after the media started running regular pieces on HMRC? Finally, "something I don't care about": that's a little daring of you isn't it? Anyway, my concern is how the whole system now appears to be anti-taxpayer. Why allocate £900m to tackle evasion if you screw up the system for the majority who wish to comply. Rules and procedures everywhere drafted too tight and no allowance given for cop-on. Wrong approach. Needs changing.

  20. 09:33

    Good post, shows a grip on reality.

    The current ARC/PCS e.campaign to MP's may yet obtain a champion from the backbenches, don't forget even a Conservative ignored the whip regarding fish by-catch recently. If they can do it for fish...

    Then of course we are lurching towards the next staff survey with staff being deluged by messages of how good things are, people awards etc. etc. - you want to see knee jerk panic reaction look no further.
    It will be interesting to see if HMRC gets to "organise" its own review again this year, not that it did them any good.

    However, I think the current man at the helm, Hartnett has worked out where the problems really lie hence his letter to management recently. If this turns out to be another totally negative surveyhe will have to get rid of the problem and that could be interesting.

  21. @24 August 2011 09:02

    Does your company have a BSL interpreter on retainer? A welsh language speaking and customer letter unit, the facility to translate documents to/from any language people care to speak?

    (and no I don't mean google translate)

  22. "Does your company have a BSL interpreter on retainer? A welsh language speaking and customer letter unit, the facility to translate documents to/from any language people care to speak?"

    Yes. We got a register of people with language skills, including Welsh and BSL

  23. Boom. That just happened! LOL

  24. @25 August 2011 01:20

    And, with your many reception desks accross the country that I imagine you have are the people on that register available to interpret anywhere from Lands end to John O'Groats in person at a moments notice? and I'm not talking about the willingness but the ability.

    If not, would you maybe expect to have some reasonable notice that a person requiring such services e.g. an appointment?

  25. @24 August 2011 09:33

    I don't think I disagreed with the idea that it needs to go to an MP.

    The fact that you have narrowly avoided the initial subject matter of this post in your reply shows that you don't really care and are just jumping on the bandwagon because it's easier for you to create models of male human beings out of one of the by-products of the dry stalks of cereal plants than come up with a reasonable alternative like wot I suggested innit.

  26. Sorry, did common sense, pragmatism and err... a grip on reality get in the way of the DM-esque type arguments employed by the "something must be done" brigade?

  27. I have a problen with hmrc i have been employed by an employer for the past 5 years get p60 every year and monthly wage slips.
    Recently applied for a visa for my wife and she was rejected on the basis that checks made with hmrc show no pay or tax records i dont know what to do now.please help

  28. With all respect, resurrecting an old discussion on here from 2011, is unlikely to help. I suggest your wife calls the contact centre and her National Insurance number and speaks to someone. Tell her to phone at 8am to get through quickly. They may need to to transfer the call or arrange a call back