HMRC’s digital strategy aims to improve the efficiency and quality of its customer services by moving more personal taxpayers online, thereby reducing demand for more costly to handle telephone and postal contact. Between 2010–11 and 2014–15, HMRC cut staff in personal tax from 26,000 to 15,000. HMRC expected to have reduced demand for contact with customers towards the end of this period. It introduced two new services, automated telephony and paperless self-assessment in 2013–14 but demand for telephone advice did not fall. To live within its budget, it released 5,600 staff from personal tax in 2014–15, reducing customer service capacity. HMRC failed to answer more than a quarter of calls in 2014–15 and 2015–16. In October 2015, average waiting times peaked at 34 minutes for the taxes line and 47 minutes for self assessment calls. In response to the significant deterioration in the quality of service provided to customers in 2014–15 and the first seven months of 2015–16, HMRC recruited 2,400 staff to the taxes helpline in the autumn of 2015. The 2015 Spending Review settlement committed HMRC to further costs reductions by 2019–20. HMRC plans to deliver these savings through digitising its services. To realise its plans, it must successfully persuade more taxpayers to use online services and reduce their use of the telephone and mail.
HMRC’s Aspire contract with Capgemini has been the Government’s largest IT contract and accounted for about 84% of HMRC’s total spend on technology between April 2006 and March 2014. In replacing the contract, which has cost around £700 million per year, HMRC is seeking to take greater control of its IT services, make efficiency savings and enable wider transformation. After being extended by 3 years, the contract was due to end in 2017. When HMRC appeared before the previous Committee in March 2015, it was planning to replace all Aspire services by 2017. HMRC is now adopting a phased approach to replacing Aspire services between 2015 and 2020. It is extending some Aspire services by a further three years, bringing some in-house and using smaller, shorter contracts for others. Replacing Aspire is central to HMRC’s plans to take control of its IT estate and move towards a fully digital tax system by 2020. HMRC calculates that replacing Aspire will lead to annual savings of £200 million by 2020–21.
25 July 2016