Extra HMRC funding must be “spent wisely” to improve service levels

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has welcomed today’s announcement that HMRC will be given £51 million of extra funding to improve customer service levels.
However, the Institute has warned that this money will need to be “spent wisely and investment sustained” in order to address problems with the department’s helplines and digital services, and meet ever increasing demand.

The Treasury announced1 that the ring-fenced funding would be provided to help phonelines meet service standard targets, and comes just two months after HMRC announced, and swiftly reversed plans to close self assessment, VAT and PAYE support lines.

The Institute has previously spoken out over concerns around HMRC service levels and moves to close or restrict helplines, which it said were “misguided”.

Richard Wild, CIOT Head of Tax Technical, said:

“We are pleased the government has recognised that HMRC needs additional resources to improve its customer service, particularly its phone lines which have been underperforming for many years.

“HMRC’s service levels continue to be the single greatest concern expressed by our members, and our surveys tell us that this is making it harder and more expensive to do business, and damaging trust in the tax system.

“We welcome the minister’s statement that the government are committed to providing HMRC with the necessary resources to meet the continued needs of all its customers.

“While £51 million sounds like a lot of money, it’s just a small fraction2 of HMRC’s customer service budget, and needs to be spent wisely. It also needs to be sustained rather than a one off. We hope that this additional funding can help bridge the gap that exists between the desire to do more digitally, and the availability and reliability of systems which would make that possible.

“However, we should not expect overnight improvements. It will take time to recruit and train staff to the necessary standards, so it could be several months before call waiting times reduce significantly.”