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Published on 15 May 2024

LITRG: NAO right to call out sluggish HMRC service levels

Press release

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) has issued an initial reaction to the National Audit Office’s report into HMRC’s customer service1.

a booklet titled 'CUSTOMER SERVICE' on a desk besides a pair of glasses and a cup of tea.

Victoria Todd, Head of LITRG, said:

“The report’s findings echo our long-standing concern that HMRC has been too aggressive in its efforts to force taxpayers away from its telephone helplines towards online services.

“We welcome the NAO’s recommendation that HMRC adopts a more realistic and customer-focused approach to encourage the take-up of digital services.

“Most people agree that developing digital services is the right thing to do because they can be quicker, easier, and preferable for those who are able to use them.

“But HMRC’s current online offering isn’t capable of providing taxpayers with confidence and certainty that it will help them get their taxes right first-time. The report also identifies that nearly 7 million people could need extra help and support to use HMRC’s digital services, but that HMRC has not developed sufficient plans to provide this support2.

“For some time, we have been concerned with the evidence base HMRC has used to justify its decision to close some telephone helplines and their shyness in sharing it.

“The fact that the NAO has highlighted that HMRC cannot be certain whether its decisions have led to a drop in tax revenues, or that the data collected shows that taxpayers can sort their tax problems online, suggests that we have been correct to push for answers. We will continue to do so.

Victoria Todd continued:

“Until a new, more evidenced based approach is in place to support the transition to online services for those who can use them, sufficient funding to maintain customer service levels by phone and post needs to be in place.

“The £51 million announced this week3 is a fraction of HMRC’s overall customer service budget, but it sends a signal that the concerns raised by LITRG and others have been listened to.

“This is, however, only a temporary stop gap. As well as continued funding, HMRC will need to redouble its efforts to improve digital services and support people in using them. The NAO report indicates that some 60% of HMRC transactions are now carried out digitally, suggesting that people will use online services where they can and when they work well.

“In the meantime, we will continue to hold HMRC to account to ensure taxpayers receive the service they are entitled to expect.”

Notes for editors

  1. The National Audit Office report can be read here.
  2. NAO report (page 4)
  3. See LITRG press release 13 May 2024.
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