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HMRC should invest in its own staff, says union as call centre workers strike

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Up to 20,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union working in HMRC will strike today in opposition to planned call handling trials using two private sector companies. The 31 January deadline for filing of self assessment tax returns has been effectively extended to 2 February to allow more time for taxpayers seeking help in completing a return.

‘While people will still be able to file returns online, enquiry lines will be closed or seriously delayed for the tens of thousands of people who will use the service on the day to get help and advice,’ the PCS said.

HMRC announced last week that it would ‘treat all returns that come in by midnight on 2 February as though they were submitted by 31 January’.

The PCS said yesterday that the trials were unnecessary ‘as the skills and expertise already exists in the department’.

‘If HMRC wants to trial new ways of working, the union says HMRC should invest in its own staff, instead of pressing ahead with plans to cut another 10,000 jobs by 2015 – on top of the 30,000 that have gone from the department since 2005. HMRC last week announced plans to close more advice offices.

‘This would mean the government could make a serious attempt at tackling the tens of billions of pounds in tax that goes uncollected every year from a minority of very wealthy individuals and organisations that avoid or evade paying their dues.’

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘By cutting jobs and privatising, HMRC is directly transferring members' wages into shareholder profits.’

HMRC defended the trials earlier this month. A spokesman said: ‘HMRC is not privatising existing HMRC contact centre jobs but we are determined to improve the service we provide to our customers and this means considering a variety of options including drawing on the knowledge and experience of external contact centre operators.’