Improving tax collection - Public Accounts Contents

4  Customer service

12. We last reported on HMRC's customer service performance in March 2013. While we welcomed the commitment made by HMRC to improve, we considered that its revised target of answering 80% of customers' calls within 5 minutes was unambitious and inadequate, being lower than industry standard response times in the private sector.[40]

13. HMRC acknowledged it was unacceptable that, two years on, it had not yet met its target for answering phone calls.[41] HMRC expects its performance in 2014-15 to be worse than in 2013-14, and that it will not meet its revised targets.[42] HMRC told us that it had recently introduced new technology to better direct customers' calls and was using staff flexibly to answer a greater proportion of calls received at peak times than in previous years. HMRC also told us that these measures were intended to make its service more consistent across the year and that it hoped to meet its 80% target in 2015-16.[43]

14. HMRC's customer charter commits it to provide an even-handed service to its customers, but only 63% of individuals and small businesses say that they trust HMRC to act fairly, compared to 87% of large businesses who say HMRC treats them fairly.[44] HMRC told us that it would not agree that large businesses received a better deal on their tax, but it did agree that they had more access to HMRC. It explained that its approach was to know what big businesses were doing and to try and leave small businesses alone.[45] However HMRC admitted that it could be difficult for small and medium sized businesses to contact HMRC to discuss their tax affairs and accepted that the service it provides small businesses was not as good as it could be.[46]

15. HMRC told us that it wanted to improve and to personalise the service it offers using technology.[47] Its aim is for individuals and small businesses to have access to digital accounts that will increase the amount of online self-service possible and reduce the need for contact with HMRC.[48] In this context, we note that the C&AG's report highlighted the challenge HMRC faces in building its commercial and technical capability within a short timeframe if it is to achieve the objectives of its technology strategy.[49]

40   Committee of Public Accounts, HMRC: Customer Service, Thirty-sixth Report of Session 2012-13, HC 869, 18 March 2013 Back

41   Q 208 Back

42   C&AG's Report, Increasing the effectiveness of tax collection, para 7.5  Back

43   Qq 209-210 Back

44   Q 247; C&AG's Report, Annex: Increasing the effectiveness of tax collection: a stocktake of progress since 2010, Session 2014-15, HC 1029-II, 6 February 2015, para 2.19  Back

45   Q 248 Back

46   Q 249 Back

47   Qq 248-249 Back

48   Q 212 Back

49   C&AG's Report, Increasing the effectiveness of tax collection, paras 10, 12 Back

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Prepared 26 March 2015