HMRC withdraws Sunday call services
From the end of November, HMRC has announced that it will close its contact centres on Sundays.
The move will allow the tax department to redeploy staff to the peak periods throughout the rest of the week, “driving down waiting times and providing a more effective service for all”.
According to HMRC’s impact assessment of the move, advisers are often left waiting for calls during very quiet periods such as Sunday afternoons and redeploying them at much busier times will allow the department to answer an extra 3% of call attempts – equating to around 1.7m extra calls handled.
HMRC responded to claims from the Low Incomes Tax Group that removing the Sunday contact centre service would affect disadvantaged groups adversely, HMRC said its research showed the number of people affected would be small. “All caller volumes are low on Sundays, and this trend is mirrored within all the equality groups we looked at (Disabled, Over 65 and English not first language),” it said.
The Sunday closures continue a sequence of rationalisation moves in recent months and follow the coalition government’s spending review assessment that another 15% needs to be trimmed from HMRC’s budget.
The Public and Commercial Services union PCS argued that “moving scarce resources from one area within the department to another is not a viable means of dealing effectively and efficiently with tax collection and administration”.
As part of its continuing campaign against the cutbacks, the union is conducting a “consultative ballot” of members that could pave the way for further industrial action.
Tax advisers should be relatively unscathed by the loss of Sunday contact centre service – even during the busy Self Assessment season, they shouldn’t need to be calling the main tax helpline on a Sunday – but the wider decline in staff morale and the threat of industrial action present far more significant threats of disruption and stress.