HMRC criticised by MPs for poor service


HM Revenue & Customs have been accused of ‘woeful’ customer service by MPs for failing to answer 20 million calls costing taxpayers £136 million in call charges.

MPs also expressed dismay that HMRC only managed to reply to 66% of letters within 15 days despite a target of responding to 80%.  The statistics were revealed as part of a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee who said HMRC had "an abysmal record", despite spending a record £900 million to improve customer services.  However, they did welcome a move to introduce a call-back system and replace costly 0845 numbers which customers have to use when the ring HMRC.

Margaret Hodge MP, who chairs the committee commented; "HMRC's 'customers' have no choice over whether or not they deal with the department. It is therefore disgraceful to subject them to unacceptable levels of service when they try to contact the department by phone or letter."

She said a new target of answering 80% of calls within five minutes was "woefully inadequate and unambitious" and warned that proposals to cut customer-facing staff by 8,500 posed a real risk to the department being able to improve standards.

"HMRC plans to cut the number of customer-facing staff by a third by 2015. At the same time, the stresses associated with introducing the real-time information system, universal credit and changes to child benefit are likely to drive up the number of phone calls to the department."

Since the committee's hearing on the HMRC, the department has announced the closure of its 281 inquiry centers, which is likely to put more pressure on phone lines. Hodge said: "It may need to put in additional resources … to avoid the kind of plummeting performance we have seen in the past."

An HMRC spokesman said: "This report criticises a previous poor standard of service from which HMRC has already recovered. We are investing an extra £34m in our contact centres to maintain this industry-standard level of performance."


  • Date posted:
    22/03/2013
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