Working to inspect governmental departments for expenditure and efficiency, the NAO today released its report on the Taxman's customer service standards and performance. HMRC has been looked at by the NAO several times over the last five years and this specific report looked at the service toward personal taxpayers using PAYE or the Self Assessment Tax Return.
Key findings of the report reveal that in order to meet cost savings agreed in 2010, the Taxman cut staff numbers from 26,000 to 15,000 and worked to replace the 9,000 with automation and digital services. Initially the cuts and transition toward more online services worked well for the department with service actually improving in 2013/14 but went awry when the Taxman misjudged the progress of their online effort.
Last year before fully completing online service availability for the general public, HMRC preemptively let go of an additional 1,500 staff. This led to the following unfortunate statistics:
- 15 minutes average wait time to speak to an adviser for help with taxes in 2015/16.
- 47 minute average wait time to speak to an adviser for help in the deadline week for the paper tax return 2015.
- £66 million cost to people waiting for their calls to be answered.
- A fifth of people rate HMRC service as poor.
- Over 4 million calls abandoned whilst waiting to be answered.
- £271 billion tax collected in 2014 against costs of £0.54 billion.
Alongside the front-line reduction of customer service quality, the back-office suffered too. HMRC has over 3 million cases to be investigated where there is a possibility of the taxpayer having paid the incorrect amount of tax - with the main consequence of people being issued with wrong tax codes.
Since suffering the strain the Taxman has been forced to hire nearly 2,500 new staff to plug the hole whilst the online services come fully into action.