ALL 281 of HM Revenue & Customs’ enquiry centres are to be mothballed following a successful seven-month trial of alternatives in the north east.
In its place, HM Revenue & Customs is to introduce a “flexible” telephone service, while visits can be made to “a range of convenient locations” including taxpayers’ homes and businesses.
The move will affect 1,300 jobs, although it is expected many of those will be redeployed within the department. HMRC claims the move will save taxpayers £17m per year in travel costs, while it puts the saving from closing the centres at £27m.
The taxman said “phone advisers will be able to bring HMRC experts together in a single call” to resolve multiple issues, without transferring customers around different parts of HMRC to different advisers who each deal with a separate issue.
Following the launch of the new service in May 2014, the current enquiry centre network will close.
Ruth Owen, HMRC’s director general for personal tax, said: “HMRC is dedicated to providing help to customers when they need it. The pilot showed that this is a valuable service for those who cannot get the help they need elsewhere.
“Our enquiry centres offer a great service to those who can reach them. But they are spread unevenly across the UK, the number of people using them continues to fall, and our research shows that the majority of customers who do use them don’t actually need to. The new service will enable us to tailor help in a way that works better and is more affordable.
“Our specialised phone service will help customers whose affairs can be resolved over the telephone, and our face-to-face help will be available to those who need it, visiting them at a place convenient to them.”
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