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HMRC consults on mobile support to replace enquiry centres

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HMRC is proposing to close its enquiry centres and deliver face-to-face support through teams of ‘extra support mobile advisers’, located at libraries and community centres, and visits to customers’ homes.

‘We have concluded that our enquiry centre network does not always reach the small minority of our customers who need extra help, and that the resources we use to run enquiry centres could be better invested in a more accessible, effective and efficient service that is better for our customers and makes more efficient use of the limited funds available for HMRC,’ it said. Use of enquiry centres has fallen from more than 5m visits in 2005/06 to 2.5m in 2011/12.

Comments are invited by 24 May on a new approach to ‘supporting customers who need extra help’.

HMRC will ‘look closely’ at feedback and consider whether any changes are necessary. It plans a pilot service to be run in the north-east of England from June to October 2013.

The department is in ‘ongoing discussions’ with TaxAid, Tax Help for Older People, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, Citizens Advice, Gingerbread, Child Poverty Action Group and Age UK.

The new approach will include ‘direction to voluntary and community sector organisations, where the customer needs independent advice or someone to act on their behalf and is unable to pay for this’.

The CIOT’s Low Incomes Tax Reform Group gave a cautious welcome to the announcement. LITRG chairman Anthony Thomas said: We welcome the aims of the North East pilot to provide a much better service to those who need more help than the telephone and internet channels currently provide. Unrepresented taxpayers and tax credit claimants on low incomes or those with particular needs should benefit from an improved service.

‘It is crucial that HMRC work closely with the voluntary sector throughout the duration of the pilot and beyond in order to ensure that an excellent service is delivered to those who are in need of help. This new service envisages a very significant increase in the voluntary sector workload and without proper funding and resource taxpayers could be seriously disadvantaged.’

He added: ‘HMRC will not be surprised that we shall be monitoring the new service very closely indeed to ensure the services are freely available and easily accessed by all who need help.’