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Published on 28 February 2024

PAC report highlights the problem of poor HMRC service levels

Press release

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) has welcomed the publication of a report by the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee highlighting the ‘conscious choices’ being made by HMRC and HM Treasury that have resulted in the continuing deterioration of HMRC customer service levels.

tablet showing 3 faces, a happy face, a indifferent face, and a sad face to rate service. A person is pressing the sad face
Tero Vesalainen/

Victoria Todd, Head of LITRG, said:

“This report underscores the serious concerns that exist with the level of help and support HMRC is providing to its customers.

“These ‘conscious choices’, such as the closure of the self-assessment helpline last summer, are making it harder for taxpayers to pay the tax they owe and is indicative of a system that is struggling to keep up with demand.

“While we don’t disagree with HMRC’s desire to have more people deal with them online rather than by phone or post, we question the way they are going about this and the evidence that is being used to justify these decisions. We do not believe HMRC’s current digital services, including guidance and the automated digital assistant, are of a sufficient standard to support a forced channel shift to digital.

“These choices have very real implications for low-income taxpayers who are unable to afford professional help.

“Some may turn towards the voluntary sector for help, but these services are being stretched to their limits and almost certainly will be unable to keep up with demand. Others may decide not to seek any help, or turn to unofficial sources of help like online forums.

“This increases the risk they will receive no or inaccurate advice, increasing the likelihood of errors and non-compliance and storing up problems further down the line. This in turn risks increasing the tax gap and will put pressure on HMRC’s services in the future to resolve the issues, as well as potentially putting taxpayers into a stressful position of tax debt and penalties.

“Until such time as we can be satisfied that the information and support taxpayers need to comply with their tax obligations is easily accessible online, HMRC needs to be adequately resourced to meet current demands by phone, post and webchat.”

Notes for editors

  1. The report is available here.
  2. LITRG’s evidence to the committee can be read here.
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