For fear of telling our beloved government, ‘I told you so,’ there are now official reports setting out just how horrendously badly HMRC is doing.
Maybe the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee could have just read the wise words of the Battle-Axe rather than spending money on a long report that concluded, ‘We are concerned that it has made little or no progress on a number of important issues that this Committee has raised before. The standard of customer service also remains unacceptable.’
Needless to say, I would put it somewhat stronger (and more succinctly) than that!
Sure, HMRC claims to be collecting more tax. However, this should be no surprise given that government figures say that the economy is gradually coming round.
Even then, I’m unconvinced this is the result of good management by HMRC rather than simply a sign that people are paying amounts that they don’t actually owe. We see, on a daily basis, taxpayers getting demands from HMRC, which simply aren’t right.
That’s no surprise as often one part of the HMRC system shows a radically different number to another part then, a few months later, we hear that HMRC has been issuing erroneous demands.
Strangely enough, the admission comes just long enough after the issue that a lot of people will have paid the penalty and, needless to say, refunds only appear if demanded by the taxpayer!
Possibly more shocking is the decline in customer service: only 50% of calls are being answered at all and only 39% are answered within five minutes. That’s against a target of 80%, which was seen to be ‘woefully inadequate and unambitious’, and significantly worse than last year. It is some achievement to miss the barn door by quite so many miles!
Our experience is that you can wait nearly an hour on hold, so I suspect this view of HMRC’s customer service is over generous because it doesn’t take into account the number of people who have given up even trying to ring them as they’ve never had a call answered!
When challenged over this, HMRC couldn’t say how they will improve; only commenting that ‘they are still struggling’. That should be no surprise as its performance measures don’t cover delivering a consistent, let alone an improving, level of service. It claims that its service levels have dropped as calls are taking longer than anticipated. Maybe if it introduced the long awaited ‘one and done’ system and made sure taxpayers and their agents have access to reliable, and consistent, information, the calls would be far shorter and fewer in number.
I for one won’t be holding my breath over this and fear that it will get worse before it gets better. Does anyone know of a desert island, with suitable Triathlon facilities of course, that a Battle-Axe, with the marks of a phone handset almost permanently embossed on her ear, can move to?