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MPs expose woeful HMRC phone service

18th Mar 2013
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HMRC’s new target for answering calls from taxpayers is "unambitious and woefully inadequate" according to a new report from the Public Accounts Committee.

The report says HMRC received 79 million calls in 2011/12, but 20 million of these calls were not answered. A third of the letters received in the same period were not given a response within a 15-day target.

The committee also revealed the aim of answering 80% of calls within five minutes would still see 16 million callers waiting longer than that to be answered by HMRC. The five minute response falls well short of the industry benchmark of 80% of calls being answered within 20 seconds.

Committee chair Margaret Hodge said HMRC’s record was abysmal, but welcomed the changing attitude toward customer service: “Officials are beginning to realise that good customer service lies at the heart of any strategy to maximise revenues while cutting costs”

The timing of the damning report coincides with the closure of HMRC Enquiry Centres to focus on phone and online assistance, which HMRC says it has improved since the time featured in the committee's report. The plans to close 281 enquiry centres by the end of 2014 are part of a consultation on supporting customers who need extra help, but also fits into the department’s wider drive to reduce administration costs.

Other changes in the new report include the reduction in call costs by ending the use of 0845 numbers later this year.

HMRC chief executive Lin Homer told the BBC this morning that they had “really turned a corner” and that there were looking at new ways to deliver service.

Homer said they were considering a new form of telephone answering where “You say some words and the machine works out what you want to do instead of those lists.

 “HMRC will provide a more modern and accessible service that will target the right support to customers who need it, where and when they want it,” she added:

Replies (3)

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By ShirleyM
18th Mar 2013 12:11

I hope the word recognition works better than BT's

BT's system can't understand anything I say. It is extremely frustrating to be told by a machine that it didn't understand ... and asks me if I said 'account' ..'No' I say, I said 'complaint' ... and then the machine tells me it didn't understand and asks if I said 'account' ..... ad infinitum!

I doubt a saint himself would have the patience ... and I certainly don't! I must admit I chicken out after about 10 minutes of this and I ask my very patient employee to take care of it, otherwise I risk high blood pressure & heart attack. Unless the new HMRC word recognition is very good I can foresee it leading to mass suicide or murder and I may well be first in the queue for one or the other.

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By Philip_Winter
18th Mar 2013 13:03

Not rocket science

It's simple to solve this isn't it?

More and better trained, and perhaps better paid, HMRC staff.

That would solve the communication problem, both telephone and correspondence. As a result: better tax compliance; better and more timely and accurate tax collection. And, of course, improved HMRC staff morale.

The increased tax collected would more than pay for the more and better trained, maybe better paid, HMRC staff. Result!

Senior HMRC inspectors could then concentrate on large multinational and national companies business and high earning/high value individuals, identifying and following through on tax avoidance and prosecuting tax evaders to the full extent of the law, supported one hopes by the Courts. Large amounts of additional previously unpaid tax could be collected. Result!

It's really not rocket science is it?



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By Philip_Winter
18th Mar 2013 13:05


And if HMRC could somehow see their way to permitting email communication that would I think be hugely helpful!

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