HMRC plans to close local tax offices
HMRC, the UK’s tax authority, has announced that 137 local tax offices are to be closed and replaced with 13 regional tax centres.
The announcement which comes after reports emerged that taxman failures were costing the public purse. It has stoked fears of job losses and short term disruption to the tax system.
Planned over a decade, the major shake-up will save the department £100m by 2025, according to HMRC, but it could leave lots of major towns and cities without a local tax office.
The tax collector has already made significant cuts over the last decade and the latest move has already exacerbated concerns about the organisation’s poor record on customer service.
MPs recently described HMRCs record of handling customer enquiries as “staggeringly bad” when only half of incoming calls were answered between April and June of this year.
Lin Homer, HMRC’s chief executive said: “HMRC has too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices. This makes it difficult for us to collaborate, modernise our ways of working, and make the changes we need to transform our service to customers and clamp down further on the minority who try to cheat the system”.
“The new regional centres will bring our staff together in more modern and cost-effective buildings in areas with lower rents”.
Other organisations have expressed concerns about the move and HMRC’s future ability to collect tax receipts.
General secretary of the PCS union Mark Serwotka said: “Closing this many offices would pose a significant threat to the operation of HMRC, its service to the public and the working lives of staff, and the need for parliamentary scrutiny of the plans is undeniable and urgent”.
Frank Haskew of the Institute of Chartered Accountants also expressed concern about disruption to the tax system, particularly in the short term.
He said: "We shouldn't underestimate the disruption that this restructuring will have on HMRC and the distraction it will cause to its leadership as they seek to implement it".
Helen Johnson, Accountancy Services Manager at Umbrella.co.uk said: “If these new regional tax centres do improve HMRC’s quality of service without disrupting collections in the short term then I would cautiously welcome them.
“Of more concern to Umbrella.co.uk is the way the tax office keeps going after ‘average joe taxpayer’ and hardworking contractors with policies like the one-month-contractor-cap, instead of the multinational corporations who offshore their tax obligations year after year”.