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HMRC invests £45m in customer service

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HMRC is reallocating £45m out of current spending to recruit 3,000 additional customer service staff and move 2,000 existing staff to help with administering tax credits. HMRC receives more than 60m calls a year. The statistics show that while 73% of calls were answered last year, service standards were inconsistent across the year, with some months falling well below HMRC’s 80% target. The figures also show that in some months as many as one in five customers heard a busy tone and could not join a phone queue.

Lin Homer, HMRC’s chief executive said: ‘Good customer service is an absolute priority for HMRC. While we were successful in tackling the busiest peaks for self-assessment and tax credits customers, we didn’t meet our call handling target overall and we didn’t provide the consistent service to which we aspired.’

George Bull, senior tax partner at Baker Tilly, said: ‘Anyone who has tried to get through to the HMRC helpline in recent months will be relieved to hear that that the department is taking steps to improve its woeful record on call handling. However, the problem is not just about getting through, it’s also about the quality of the service that’s provided. Simply getting more people to man the phones will not necessarily solve this problem.’

Writing in this week’s Tax Journal (page 8), HMRC’s DG for personal tax, Ruth Owen, explained that the department had plans ‘in the short, medium and long term’ to address its poor performance. ‘The £80m budget cut announced recently [would not come] out of customer service or compliance’, she said.