Supplementary memorandum submitted by
HM Revenue and Customs
Members of the Sub-Committee asked HMRC officials
to provide further information in writing on specific matters.
These matters and the HMRC responses are as follows:
The numbers of requests from customers to delay
repayment of overpayments that the Department has turned down
Where there is no award in the current year
the customer will receive a Notice to Pay and can pay back the
overpayment in 12 monthly instalments if they wish. If they require
more than 12 months Income and Expenditure details are obtained
and consideration is given to payment over an extended period
of time. At end-September we had 164,000 time-to-pay arrangements
in place across the whole population of new tax credits of which
143,000 were for periods of 12 months or less and 21,000 for periods
exceeding 12 months.
We do not hold management information on the number
of requests to delay repayment that are "turned down"
because the objective of the process is to reach an agreement,
taking into consideration the particular circumstances of each
Where the Department considers that a tax credit
has been overpaid, but the customer disputes that appraisal, the
legal basis on which the Department continues to collect the supposed
The Paymaster General wrote two letters to David
Laws MP on this issue in June and July this year. Copies of both
were placed in the House Library. I have attached copies. The
Freedom of Information request referred to in the July letter
was refused under the exemptions in sections 42(1) and 35(1)(a)
of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I enclose a copy of the
letter detailing the reasons for refusal.
The legal advice that we received is that it
is justifiable to operate a system that includes a presumption
of recovery by means of reducing or stopping further payments,
while the investigation proceeds because:
the majority of overpayments are
correctly repayable; and
HMRC have in place publicised mechanisms
for dealing with those cases where repayments are not appropriate
or may cause hardship.
Any data held by the Department, showing the breakdown
by income bracket of customers who have received overpayments,
and the extent of those overpayments
On 1 June 2005, HMRC published a snapshot of
2003-04 overpayments based on payments of 2003-04 awards made
up to 5 April 2004, which showed overpayments totalling £1.9
billion. These figures, broken down by income bracket can be found
in Table 5 of Child and Working Tax Credits Finalised Annual Awards:
Supplement on Payments, which is available on the HMRC website
Details of any increases or decreases of
staffing numbers in the tax credits area over the previous three
For 2003-04, the first year of new tax credits,
the Inland Revenue employed around 7,300 full time equivalents
to work on tax credits. The number rose to around 8,200 in 2004-05.
The number of staff employed at any one time varies throughout
the course of the year as extra staff are brought in at peak times.
Amounts of overtime worked by staff working in
the tax credits area, and whether the amount of overtime worked
has increased by comparison with previous years
The number of hours of overtime worked by staff
in the Tax Credit Office (TCO) in each of the last four years
[We do not hold figures for overtime payments
ascribed to tax credits work for the Department as a whole. For
example some staff in Enquiry Centres will spend some of their
time working on Tax Credits, and some on other tax queries.]
Details of work undertaken by the Department in
order to improve the service it offers to its disabled customers
HMRC is keen to make it as easy as possible
for all it's customersincluding those with disabilities
or impairmentto understand and comply with their obligations
and to receive their tax credit and other entitlements.
We recognise that those of our customers who
have disabilities or impairment may need extra help and support
to access our services and we have a [substantial] package of
measures in place to help:
All our Enquiry Centres (and other
offices where the public attend voluntarily to access our services)
have been surveyed to identify access issues. We have subsequently
completed a programme of works to make all reasonable adjustments
in line with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. These adjustments
included fitting automated opening doors, ramps, handrails, induction
loops and tactile signage. Where reasonable adjustments have not
proved possible because of building constraints, local business
managers have implemented alternative means of providing the service
to a potential disabled visitor.
All our Enquiry Centres are equipped
with induction loop systems and crystal listening devices to aid
our hearing impaired customers.
We provideon requestcopies
of HMRC forms, leaflets, guidance notes and other written material
in alternative formats (Braille, Large print, Audio, CD and Floppy
Disk) to those with visual impairment though a dedicated Visually
Impaired Media Unit.
Our website is designed to be accessible
to all our user groups, including those with disabilities and
impairment. Accessibility standards are in place to make the content
accessible to the widest possible range of visitors, regardless
of disability or impairment.
All our contact centres have type-talk
and mincom facilities which enable access by customers with hearing
impairment and virtually all our switchboards serving local HMRC
offices also have type-talk capability.
For those of customers who are either
elderly and infirm, or whose disabilities or caring responsibilities
prevent them from visiting our offices, we will undertake home
The numbers of containers checked at UK ports
under Programme Cyclamen
Cyclamen operates currently at three ports,
and one airport, and checks inbound movements of Roll-on-Roll-off
(RoRo) ferry traffic, sea containers, and air freight. There are
also currently two mobile Cyclamen units undergoing trials.
The total number of arrivals that have been
screened by the Cyclamen equipment is 1,533,822 since April 2004.
(618,615 from 1 April to 30 September 2005)
The number of arrivals causing the equipment
to alarm is 11,954 (4493 from 1 April to 30 September 2005). These
arrivals were intercepted and examined by HMRC to establish the
reason for the alarm, which is normally caused by naturally occurring
radioactive materials, and are readily cleared. A handful of alarms
have resulted in more in depth examination and detention because
of radiological contamination of the cargo, or other concerns
that needed to be investigated, but there have been no incidents
involving materials that might have been used by terrorists.
Most of the traffic screened at RoRo ports arrives
in 40 foot, hard and soft sided trailers, as well as containers,
and it is impossible to differentiate between containers and other
road freight to provide a precise number for containers only.
Details of any increases or decreases of staffing
numbers in the Large Business Service over the previous three
The table shows the staff in post in the Large
Business Service, made up of the Large Business Group (former
HM Customs and Excise) and Large Business Office (former Inland
|March 2004||March 2005
(creation of HMRC)
|Large Business Group||986.44
|Large Business Office||801.76
Note: The Energy Group is included in the Large Business
Office figures for April 2005.
Details of the methodology which the Department intends to
use in order to achieve an integrated departmental IT system,
given Inland Revenue's pre-existing relationship with Capgemini
and HM Customs and Excise's pre-existing relationship with Fujitsu
HMRC established the Strategic Framework in May 2005, which
set out the department's vision for IT over the next three years.
The purpose of the strategic framework is to demonstrate how HMRC
will use IT to help individuals and business pay the right amount
of tax due and receive the credit and payments to which they are
entitled. In addition it also looks at how IT can help increase
the customer experience, support business and reduce the compliance
burden. And finally how IT can help HMRC deliver the Gershon efficiency
The IT Strategic Framework has explicit objectives to enable
more efficient and effective business processes by focusing in
four main areas.
The operation of optimised daily services.
The development and implementation of next generation
Effective listening and working with both business
and our external partners.
Developing a high performing team of valued professionals.
In order to meet these objectives HMRC are:
Establishing a vital link between IT development
and the business, enabling the business' needs and strategy to
Establishing an approvals process which will enable
HMRC to priorities the IT development work.
Working with their IT partners' to review live
services in order to improve their day to day service.
Have launched a skills development program in
line with the wider Government initiative to increase professional
skills in the Civil Service.
Developing a 2020 vision to consider how IT might
enable the delivery of HMRC services.