HMRC to shut enquiry centres

HM Revenue & Customs have announced they will close all 281 of their enquiry centres which give face-to-face advice.

The closures which will be rolled out in 2014 will affect 1,300 workers and almost 2.5 million taxpayers who use the service each year.

HMRC are planning to offer telephone services and face-to-face visits to fill the gap left by the closures and hope to re-deploy the affected staff elsewhere within HMRC.

It is estimated that the move will save £12 million in time and travel costs and officials claim the changes will mean the service will be £13 million cheaper to run than currently.

The enquiry centres have seen demand for their services decline from 5 million users in 2005/06 to less than 2.5 million in 2011/12.  In response to this some centres are now only open one day per week.

HMRC maintain that only 16% of visitors genuinely need face-to-face advice making it an expensive option for taxpayers to fund with the average cost per visit being £152 compared to calls to HMRC costing around £3.

Chief Executive of HMRC Lin Homer said; “HMRC is dedicated to helping customers who need it.  This new service will enable us to tailor that help in a way that works better for customers and is more flexible and affordable than the service we currently provide.”

A pilot to test the new replacement service is being run from June-October this year and HMRC has also launched a nationwide consultation on the changes being proposed.

Andrew Cross @arcustax said; “HMRC appear intent, on the pretext of cost reduction, to offer virtually nothing by way of face-to-face help for citizens with taxation problems.  Their proposal to provide visits to taxpayers’ homes is more likely to instill fear rather than gratitude into the minds of taxpayers, particularly those of advanced years.”

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