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‘Significant recovery’ for HMRC customer service, claims boss Thompson

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HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson claimed that the government department has made a “significant recovery” in its levels of customer service during a PAC grilling, just weeks after an NAO report found that its services “collapsed” in recent years.

Jon Thompson and Edward Troup, the newly appointed leaders of HMRC, were yesterday called before PAC chair Meg Hillier to discuss HMRC’s quality of service to personal taxpayers, and its management and replacing of the Aspire contract.

Single largest issue 

Beginning the session, Hillier described HMRC’s levels of customer service as “the single largest issue” for the PAC as they receive so many letters from taxpayers.

Discussing HMRC’s recent levels of customer service, Thompson said that HMRC has seen a big improvement in call handling processes, answering 90% of calls answered, while also being able to answer calls in six minutes on average.

Thompson said the figures represented a “significant recovery” for HMRC, but admitted that average waiting times “absolutely needs to be better, and we will make it better”.

HMRC’s new chief executive was responding to an NAO report that scrutinised HMRC’s quality of service, revealing that its service “collapsed” between 2014 and 2015 due to staff shortages as the government department looked to cut costs.

Confusion

In February, Thompson was named as HMRC’s new chief executive officer, replacing Lin Homer, while Edward Troup, HMRC’s tax assurance commissioner and second permanent secretary, was promoted to executive chair.

However, Hillier brought up the potential confusion over the pair’s job titles during the PAC hearing, in which Thompson was recently given another role at HMRC on top of his role as CEO.

Thompson is also serving as HMRC’s principal accounting officer, meaning that he is responsible for the department’s spend. On top of these two roles, Thompson is also a permanent secretary.

Troup’s official job title is executive chair, while he is still serving as tax assurance commissioner as HMRC looks for his successor.

HMRC added that the joint government task force set up to investigate the Panama Papers leaks will not report back to the government until the end of 2016.

Discussing the recent raid on Google’s Paris HQ by french tax authorities, Troup said HMRC is working closely with international authorities, but HMRC “will not share [infomation] beyond taxpayer confidentiality”, adding that HMRC does have the ability to reopen its own dealings with Google’s tax payements if needs be.

Meg Hillier will be discussing tax avoidance at Financial Director’s CFO Agenda on 28 June at the Waldorf Hilton, London

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