Our recent article ‘The changing face of face-to-face’ outlined our response to HMRC’s impact assessment consultation as regards their proposed further changes to their Enquiry Centres. We had previously highlighted the problems of the dwindling Enquiry Centre service and accessing home visits for those in need.
The impact on the vulnerable
HMRC of course face the difficult task of doing the same for less; and indeed there is no benefit to either individuals or the taxpaying population if they persist with inefficient models. But equality legislation requires public bodies to assess whether a given proposal will have a more severe impact upon minority groups, such as disabled people, than on the general population; and, if it does, to consider how to mitigate the disadvantage.
Face-to-face communications will remain essential for those who cannot participate in the seemingly inevitable ‘online’ future. But even for those who can make that transition, tailored help will be needed at a time of their choosing – they might, for example, need to be shown how to do a tax return online from which they can gain the confidence to deal with their own affairs in future.
HMRC have now published their consultation response which persists in the view that the reduction in visits to ECs results from reduced demand for face-to face services; whereas we believe the opposite to be true – that demand remains high, but the inaccessibility and frequently poor quality of the HMRC service has caused that demand to flow instead to the voluntary sector (or for people to give up entirely). Logically, scaling back HMRC’s offering can lead only to increased pressure on the latter.
The basic thrust of the response is that the reductions in the Enquiry Centre service will continue. Some further mitigating actions have however been noted, including working with local authorities and Jobcentre Plus to provide a more joined-up service and to ‘continue to seek opportunities to do this’. They also pledge to monitor the impact of the changes on an ongoing basis.
Turning words into actions
HMRC’s response contains some good words and intentions, but we will now have to watch that these turn into real actions.
Contact: Kelly Sizer (Tel: 0844 579 6700 Fax 0844 579 6701)