Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

NAO: HMRC still failing on customer service

18th Dec 2012
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

HMRC's customer service is "poor value for money" , according to an NAO report that estimated delays in answering calls were costing taxpayers around £136m a year.

The NAO report on HMRC customer service acknowledged the tax department's attempts to restore service quality from the lows of 2010, but said it still had a long way to go to be on par with other governmental organisations. 

As people have "no choice" in dealing with the Revenue, it's HMRC's duty to provide the public good customer service, the NAO said.

Some 20m calls went unanswered by HMRC in 2011-12, with an average of 74% of all calls answered -  described by the NAO as a "low level of service". 

However, the number of answered calls could be overestimated, as calls are deemed answered even when put through to an automated message.

HMRC spends roughly a quarter of its expenditure, £900m, on customer service each year.

"Despite some welcome improvements, HMRC has acknowledged that its performance in providing services to the public has been unacceptable." said head of the NAO Amyas Morse.

"HMRC faced difficult decisions about whether it should aspire to meet the service performance standards of a commercial organisation. It could do only by spending significantly more money or becoming substantially more cost effective," he added.

The report criticised HMRC's use of "expensive" 0845 numbers and recommended switching to a cheaper 03 number, which would save callers around £13m a year.

Last month, the Revenue published call centre statistics for the first time and in August, chief executive Lin Homer announced 1,000 extra staff would be recruited to reach HMRC's target of answering 90% of calls.

Call centre statistics showed callers who did get through to HMRC last year had to wait an average of almost five minutes before their calls were answered. 

The NAO report, which commended HMRC's improvement in handling post, said the Revenue had improved service by upgrading phone technologies and taking 2,500 temporary staff to deal with the backlog. 

However, there are concerns that history might repeat itself, with the introduction of RTI next April and the transition to the universal credit system potentially leading to a higher influx of calls. 

The NAO recommended HMRC adopt a focused, customer-driven approach to customer service to achieve its target of 90% of calls answered by 2013 instead of its current target of 2015. 

By applying service targets used in organisations, such as the common benchmark of 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds, and putting standards for online services in place, the NAO said HMRC could improve its performance. 

Other recommendations included considering past performance when making plans and focusing customer service targets on customer priorities and publishing key targets annually, including a formal strategy for improvement post-2015. 


Replies (4)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By david5541
19th Dec 2012 12:50

£136m wasted

three cheers to margeret hodge again I quote

"I find it totally unacceptable that HMRc uses COSTLY(cable and wirless) ) 0845 numbers and charges people for the privilege of waiting for the department to pick up"


obviously Lynn Homer and her clique ignore agents and only listen to mps like margeret hodge and the NAO.


in the meantime cable and wireless profit to the tune of 136m.

Thanks (0)
By Democratus
19th Dec 2012 15:04

HMRC doesn't have customers

If so I'd shop around for a better value for money home for my hard earned tax and NICs

Thanks (1)
By dennismiller
21st Dec 2012 13:57


A target of 90% to answer calls is what they are aiming for.

Would it be ok for me to have a target of 90% tax returns filed by 31st January each year?

I wouldn't mind at all if all that happened was Margaret Hodge came round and gave me a ticking off!

Perhaps if we 'fined' HMRC £100 every time they failed to answer a call, that might wake their ideas up a bit. It is certainly supposed to work for the rest of the country.

What a disgrace!!

Thanks (0)
By Dave Watkinson
21st Dec 2012 22:19

Now. How about a human answering the phone?

Any taxpayer wanting to contact HMRC (HM must shudder everytime someone puts her name to this inane organisation) has to sit through over 5 minutes of recorded crap, during which they treat ordinarily intelligent individuals like childish morons.  And these are the same people who in the instance they expect to know as much about tax law as the so called experts in their own department.

The only saving grace is that they are better at communication than the IRS in America, but the chimps in London Zoo could achieve that!

Thanks (0)