NAO report on HMRC service quality: The challenge ahead
Philip McNeill reports on the release of the National Audit Office’s (NAO) findings on the quality of service from HMRC.
In its just published report, the NAO reflects that ‘the quality of service provided by HMRC for personal taxpayers collapsed in 2014-15 and the first seven months of 2015-16.’
Average call waiting times tripled as the impact of staff cuts in the preceding four years were felt. Staff numbers in personal tax fell by 11,000 to 15,000. This echoes the experience of practitioners.
The explanation given for the fall in standards is that HMRC was “over optimistic about” reduced taxpayer contact following introduction of “automated telephony and paperless self-assessment”.
NAO estimated that costs incurred by taxpayers due to falling standards increased to £97 million in 2015/16 - an increase of more than 50% since 2012-13.
While this makes sober reading, most taxpayers still rated the service received from HMRC as satisfactory, with 58% rating it good or excellent.
Since the 2015 low, HMRC has moved on and call handling times are improving. HMRC has recruited an additional 3,000 advisers and the 2016 Budget announced a further £71 million investment.
With the move towards a digital tax administration, it is to be hoped that past lessons have been taken on board and expectations around reduced taxpayer contact as a result of digitalisation are realistically evaluated.
While HMRC service standards remain a key concern for practitioners, the additional investment is noted and gives some grounds for optimism.