As loyal readers know the subject of phoning HMRC is often discussed on this site, as is the cost to the taxpayer of hanging on the phone.
Kudos to the National Audit Office (NAO) for attempting to estimate how much this actually costs the taxpayer.
The NAO estimates that a total of £33M was incurred in call charges by members of the public waiting in phone queues during 2011/12, part of the reason being that most of HMRC’s numbers have the high-charge 0845 prefix (as has been noted many times before on this site).
The NAO have today published a report, Customer Service Performance, which notes that HMRC received 79M calls and answered 74% of them in 2011/12, exceeding a provisional target of 58%. However, as the NAO state, HMRC doesn't exactly have high aspirations:
"HMRC’s service targets are lower and cover fewer areas than those of other organisations."However, despite these low aspirations, the service level was unsatisfactory; as can be seen from the headline figure above approximately 20M calls went unanswered. Those who did manage to get through had to wait on average 282 seconds before being put through to an adviser.
Oh and by the way, in addition to the taxpayer having to spend £33M on phone bills, taxpayers are also estimated to have wasted £103M of their own time hanging on the telephone waiting for HMRC to answer the phone.
As the report succinctly puts it (annoyingly the "C" word is used):
"HM Revenue & Customs’ ‘customers’ (taxpayers and claimants) do not have a choice about whether they interact with HMRC. This obliges HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that customers get a good service. Good service also makes economic sense, as poor service imposes costs on HMRC and its customers."The report concludes:
"HMRC’s customer service arrangements still represent poor value for money for customers."Special note should be taken of the following:
"If it enters into contracts where service providers get a share of call revenues, it should insist on open-book accounting and transparent arrangements for sharing benefits."Let's see how that goes then!
Tax does have to be taxing.
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