Wednesday 25 May 2016

Taxpayers' £97M HMRC Phone Bill

As loyal readers know, getting through to HMRC on the phone is something of an endurance test. As such, it should come as no surprise to anyone to learn that the National Audit office (NAO) is none too impressed with caller wait times either.

The NAO reports that a decision to cut jobs in HMRC meant that call waiting times tripled to 47 minutes last October just as paper tax returns were due. Bizarrely more than 5,000 HMRC staff were moved away from its call centres at a time when telephone calls were not falling.

“HMRC’s overall strategy of using digitally enabled information to improve efficiency and deliver service in new ways make sense to the NAO. This does not change the fact that they got their timing badly wrong in 2014, letting significant numbers of call handling staff go before their new approach was working reliably. This led to a collapse in service quality and forced a rapid expansion of headcount. HMRC needs to move forward carefully and get their strategy back on track while maintaining, and hopefully improving, service standards”.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 25 May 2016

The cost to the economy of leaving millions of callers hanging on the line (which as per the Telegraph is officially priced at £17 an hour) was £97million, up by 50% in three years.

The chaos prompted HMRC belatedly to send 2,400 staff to man the phones at its call centres, which in turn meant they had to “defer essential work to maintain PAYE records”.

The consequences of moving the deckchairs in this manner was a doubling of discrepancies between PAYE and self-assessment returns, leaving a risk that 3.2million people had “paid the wrong amount of tax”.

HMRC will be quizzed by PAC next month about this clusterfuck.

How ironic that just as this chaos is being exposed to the cold light of day, Dame Homer retired last month. The timing of her retirement couldn't be better, and is the only thing that she has got right in her civil service career!

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Criticised by the NAO, almost as bad as getting savaged by one of Geoffrey Howe's dead sheeple.

    As Homer said "Dear Old Amyas..."

    Daily Mail p.4
    Read it and wonder what Homer would have got had HMRC actually carried out its role effectively, sainthood?
    To have been awarded the Damehood in the circumstances as are now being slowy unveiled is a dark insult to the vast majority of the hard working staff, not the managers!

    As for an advert to illustrate the success of the use of Lean/Pacesetter PLC/LLP, its a complete disaster in the public sector as evidenced by HMRC.

    1. I agree entirely. The Damehood seems to be part of the employment offer for the job nowadays however poorly the CEO performs. As for the cost of calls, I know of people calling the HMRC from pay as you go mobiles only for all of their credit to run due to such long waits. It wastes the publics money and of course is terrible service, but more than that HMRC just do not seem to understand how such poor service could ultimately affect compliance. The resources available to HMRC need to be much better organised (too many doing too little work) but the problem is the senior management have no idea to how run a large organisation effectively and are only interested in their own career paths. Perhaps it should be run privately?