HMRC monstered by Public Accounts Committee (again)

Money, News

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. HMRC’s customer service record is under attack, with a Government report last week pouring scorn on the taxman’s service to taxpayers.

Fresh from facing flak over RTI, HMRC’s service was branded ‘abysmal’ and ‘unacceptable’ by The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts. As usual Hodge pulled no punches delivering the report’s findings. Understandably, when you see the stats.

In 2011-12 alone, 20 million phone calls to HMRC went unanswered, costing callers a collective £136 million while they waited to speak to an advisor. Meanwhile, against its target of responding to 80% of letters within 15 days, the taxman managed to reply to just 66% – a result Hodge branded ‘abysmal’.

Elsewhere, the Committee was left in similar dismay over a new HMRC target of answering 80% of calls within five minutes, declaring this ‘woefully inadequate and unambitious’. Instead, they suggested, the department should set a more demanding target that is much closer to the industry standard of answering 80% of calls within 20 seconds. Given HMRC’s track record on the phone call front, perhaps Hodge is being a little too hopeful there.

This disarray in HMRC towers is all the more remarkable when you look at their customer service spending. During 2011-12 HMRC spent around £900 million on customer service, around a quarter of its £3.7 billion total spend.

Despite the dire stats, Hodge insists that HMRC are making the right noises and showing an eagerness to improve their customer service, citing the replacement of all 0845 numbers with cheaper 03 numbers as one particular step in the right direction.

Ultimately though, with 2013 set to be particularly tumultuous and HMRC cutting back staff, expect to hear a fair amount of hold music should have a tax query this year.

Photo by striatic