From the 17th September HMRC have decided to implement a new plan for their customer services in regards to corporation tax.
No longer will you have to speak to your boring local office, now you’ll be able to enjoy the lights and glamour of Cardiff and Glasgow through the medium of hold music. HMRC have decided to consolidate their call centres across the country into just two, and hope the move will increase efficiency (because, as we all know, the more paperwork flying around one building the easier it is to keep track of. Probably).
HMRC have faced stiff criticism for a long time over the quality of their customer service. Back in 2011, only 48% of calls actually made it through to a person and some people had to wait 3 months for a reply to a letter. In May of this year, there were still massive complaints about just how rubbish HMRC are.
On top of that, the National Audit Office are currently investigating the taxman to see what they’re doing to meet customers needs and their plans for future changes. It will be interesting to see what their report (due this Winter) will have to say about this latest change.
In reality not all companies are going to be hugely affected by the change. In fact, SMEs and freelancers will disproportionately have to deal with the fallout if this all goes horribly wrong. The reason for this? Large businesses who are dealt with by the LBOs, or customers with more specialist issues, will have their own dedicated lines and therefore will be able to sidestep the hordes of calls going through.
This is particularly interesting because it seems to fly directly in the face of the Government’s recent attempts to help small businesses thrive.
There was the National Government Loan Scheme (NGLS) in March and more recently George Osborne announced his idea for a national small business bank. These two things seem to be conflicted somewhat, as surely the point of the state-backed business bank will be to attract companies through subsidised loans and products, while the NGLS is there to encourage people to go to private banks. Obviously the Government wishes to give the impression of being in favour of small business, but they just seem to be blurting out half-baked ideas while making other changes that will hurt small businesses.
Time is money, as you’ve heard around 3 billion times in your life already. This is even more pertinent in a shaky economy which is seeing established businesses collapse with alarming frequency. Freelancers need the ability to focus entirely on the work at hand, and finding out answers to tax issues should be a simple process, not one you’re going to have to clear the calendar for.
It’ll be an incredibly impressive feat if the move to two call centres goes ahead without some huge mistake and masses of lost information. Bigger call centres do not mean more effective communication and can often lead to the exact opposite. Prepare yourself, freelancers. You might want to look into to seeing if phone bills are tax deductible.
Photo by Vitor Lima