Lothian centre stockpiles tax returns

Britain’s biggest tax offiice – the Lothian Processing Centre in Edinburgh –
has been forced to move 117,000 items of unopened post into a nearby warehouse
because of a massive backlog in dealing with inquiries, Revenue trade unions
have revealed.

The unions claim that widespread staff cuts since the merger of the Inland
Revenue and Customs and Excise has paralysed the new HM Revenue and Customs

And they say that the public are now being affected with hold ups in repaying
some of the more than £500 million a year in overpayments to taxpayers and some
people being wrongly penalised with £100 surcharges for missing the September
and January deadlines for submitting tax returns.

As HMRC approaches its busiest time of the year before its September 30
deadline for self-assessment returns, the unions claim that the Lothian Centre
is just the worst affected with other centres across the UK hit by similar

HMRC sources said industrial action following the merger had made the
problems worse and managers are now offering staff bonuses and over time it
hopes to tackle the backlog of unopened mail.

Advisers say they and their clients have faced much longer delays in
responding to correspondence while Tory MP Richard Bacon – a member of the
Commons Public Accounts Committee – said merging two organisations with problems
didn’t mean you got a new organisation without problems adding: ‘Too many staff
have been sacked.’

A spokesman for HMRC said: ‘The figure given of 117,000 represents a small
proportion of the daily post received by our processing centres.

‘In the event of a backlog arising, HMRC processing centres review and
reallocate resources to ensure that the situation is dealt with as quickly and
effectively as possible.

‘However we can be clear that there is no question of this adversely
affecting self-assessment customers.’

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