HMRC “unambitious” on customer services, says Hodge

by Calum Fuller

More from this author

29 Jan 2013

  • Comments
Lin Homer

POLITICIANS CHASTISED representatives of HM Revenue & Customs over its services to taxpayers, after the department's chief executive Lin Homer told the Public Accounts Committee the department was aiming to deal with 90% of callers inside five minutes.

The Revenue is not far off achieving that aim, said Homer (pictured), with a telephony system currently receiving 80 million calls per year. Indeed, according to HMRC's own figures, the target was met regularly over the last quarter.

Committee chair, Labour MP Margaret Hodge, however, branded the taxman's targets "unambitious", noting that failure to answer the phone cost taxpayers £130m in 2011/12 and that the industry standard is answering 80% within 20 seconds.

At the current rate, claimed Hodge, 16 million callers per year would be kept waiting for more than five minutes, something she found "so frustrating".

Homer challenged Hodge's criticism, pointing to the much lower call volume most other call centres handle, and noting a shift from the current 0845 telephone numbers to the 03 prefix would drive down costs to callers. Hodge had branded the use of 0845 numbers as "unacceptable", adding that "if you don't have a landline and you use a mobile phone, it costs you 41p a minute".

HMRC director-general for personal tax Ruth Owen added the department is working on a method to cut the need for taxpayers to phone for guidance, which she said was often due to them having to check on the progress of their query or confusion over HMRC's systems or advice.

The effective implementation of such "demand management", she said, could see the volume of calls drop from 80 million to 64 million per year.

Homer flagged up improvement in correspondence by letter, too, admitting "there were points 12 months ago when we had had a million pieces of post dotted about the organisation ... I had people [in post rooms] saying, ‘Six, nine, 12 months ago, this room was full of post'".

At last check in December, though, that number had dropped to under 100,000, she said.

The committee is to reconvene this week in order to grill representatives of the Big Four over tax avoidance.

This week, Hodge reportedly suggested the Big Four wield too much power in shaping new tax laws, telling the BBC that the government "only talks to those who have a self-interest in reducing their tax contribution".

Witnesses from PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young are to appear and will include KPMG's UK head of tax Jane McCormick, Deloitte's head of tax policy Bill Dodwell, PwC's head of tax Kevin Nicholson and E&Y's head of tax policy John Dixon.

Visitor comments

blog comments powered by Disqus
display:none

Add your comment

We won't publish your address


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms & Conditions

Your comment will be moderated before publication

Submit
  • Send

Newsletters

Get the latest financial news sent directly to your inbox

  • Best Practice
  • Business
  • Daily Newsletter
  • Essentials

Careers

Search for jobs
Click to search our database of all the latest accountancy roles

Create a profile
Click to set up your profile and let the best recruiters find you

Jobs by email
Sign up to receive regular updates with the latest roles suitable for you

Briefings

budget-management

Why budgeting fails: One management system is not enough

If budgeting is to have any value at all, it needs a radical overhaul. In today's dynamic marketplace, budgeting can no longer serve as a company's only management system; it must integrate with and support dedicated strategy management systems, process improvement systems, and the like. In this paper, Professor Peter Horvath and Dr Ralf Sauter present what's wrong with the current approach to budgeting and how to fix it.

cchcover

iXBRL: Taking stock. Looking forward

In this white paper CCH provide checklists to help accountants and finance professionals both in practice and in business examine these issues and make plans. Also includes a case study of a large commercial organisation working through the first year of mandatory iXBRL filing.