The appalling customer service of HMRC

The appalling customer service of HMRC has been criticised by a committee of MPs, who have warned that standards could fall further if costs are cut.

A Public Accounts Committee report found that, during October 2015, customer service was so bad that the average waiting time on phone calls for tax-related enquiries was 34 minutes, while self-assessment calls took an average of 47 minutes.

The Committee linked the fall in quality to spending cuts made by HMRC around this time. The report stated: "The decline in HMRC’s customer services occurred at the same time as it reduced its headcount in personal tax services."

Earlier this year, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that job cuts at HMRC had left many callers waiting for over an hour to speak to an Adviser during an 18 month period from 2014 to 2016.

This wasted £97 million of caller money on the cost of time spent waiting for calls to be answered and someone dealing with the query.

Between 2010 and 2015, HMRC cut spending by £257 million. The cuts resulted in a loss of 10,800 staff, causing a huge rise in customer waiting times, which HMRC tried to put down to "teething problems" with its new systems.

But the truth was that HMRC had underestimated how much people needed to speak to an Adviser, with new online services not having the desired effect of lowering call volumes.

The Public Accounts Committee said that HMRC had "released too many staff too soon because it was over-optimistic about how quickly the demand on its call centres would fall.”

It continued: "HMRC’s plans to cut the cost of its personal tax services by another 34% in the next five years raises the risk of another collapse in service levels. HMRC needs a clear understanding of customer behaviour to estimate how demand will change and must be confident that it can maintain service levels at an acceptable level before it releases further staff."

The collapse in HMRC’s service last year is thought to have caused three million to pay the wrong tax. The Committee has recommended that HMRC investigates the relationship between customer service and tax revenue collection.

Research suggests that a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction could increase annual income tax revenue by an incredible £43 million.

To read the full report click on this link: