Taxman should use travelling enquiry offices, says Gauke

THE TAXMAN should look into making greater use of the voluntary sector and travelling enquiry centres to fill the gap left by the closure of local offices, Exchequer secretary to the Treasury David Gauke has told MPs.

Gauke appeared before the Treasury select committee on 11 May for an inquiry into the performance of HM Revenue & Customs. He was asked by Conservative MP Jesse Norman about plans to re-open local offices that have been closed.

This was unlikely, Gauke said. Demand for face-to-face services were diminishing, he added. The minister provided the example of one centre that is paying £162,000 a year in rent, which gets on average four visits a week.

“The Revenue is being more imaginative in the sense of it doesn’t have to be a separate HMRC office,” incurring all those costs, he said. “HMRC can make use of job centres, and council offices, for example.”

HMRC should consider customer demand when configuring services, he said. “If there is one appointment a week, HMRC does have to think long and hard about how it should provide face-to-face services in the traditional way. Maybe it should engage the voluntary sector, or have travelling HMRC enquiry centres.”

Paul Aplin, a partner at AC Mole & Sons, said: “The idea of a travelling office is interesting. But it will only be there when HMRC want it to be there, not when pensioners or vulnerable taxpayers need face-to-face contact.”

Using the voluntary sector more was possible, he added, but the Revenue as a whole “has to offer a core service to its customers”.

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