MPs have given HMRC three months to improve “unacceptable” levels of customer service in a damning report.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said it was "unconvinced" that HMRC's plans to address its problems would work quickly enough.
It comes just days after MPs wrote to Jim Harra, head of HMRC, expressing “serious concerns” that the taxman's generous work from home policy was causing taxpayers to be left waiting on the phone in the run-up to the self-assessment deadline. Many callers were forced to wait an hour or more for HMRC to answer their queries or were cut off before receiving a response.
The PAC said it was “surprised” to learn that in the past HMRC had sometimes closed its telephone line because it could not cope with demand. “It is not acceptable not to answer calls from people who are trying to pay the government money,” the MPs wrote.
The report warned that HMRC’s customer service will only get worse as inflationary pressures squeeze its spending power. The MPs gave the taxman three months to write to the Committee with a plan to improve customer service "as quickly as possible".
Susan Ball, president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, whose evidence was referenced in the report, said:
“Our members tell us every day of the delays they face getting answers and action from HMRC – and the impact this is having on businesses and individuals.
It is crazy that people trying to get help from HMRC on paying the right amount of tax find it so difficult to get through, especially when an estimated £3bn a year is lost to the Exchequer from non-deliberate taxpayer error.”
HMRC plans to address delays by investing in digitising the tax system, but the PAC said it was unconvinced this would be enough to improve customer service.
All very well giving HMRC a 3 months or else deadline, but we all know that when it misses that deadline (and it most assuredly will miss that deadline) nothing will happen to it!Tax does have to be taxing.
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