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HMRC customer service ‘abysmal’ – PAC

The HMRC has cost callers £136m last year through unanswered calls, the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has reported.

20 million calls went unanswered last year and the HMRC only replied to 66% of letters within 15 days, below their target of 80%. Despite this poor performance, HMRC is proposing to cut customer-facing staff by 8,500 and will close 281 inquiry centres.

PAC described the new target of answering 80% of calls within five minutes “woefully inadequate and unambitious”.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, said: “HMRC’s ‘customers’ have no choice over whether or not they deal with the department. It is therefore disgraceful to subject them to unacceptable levels of service when they try to contact the department by phone or letter.

“Just how the department is going to improve standards of customer service, given the prospect of its having fewer staff and receiving a higher volume of calls, is open to question. HMRC plans to cut the number of customer-facing staff by a third by 2015. At the same time, the stresses associated with introducing the Real Time Information System, Universal Credit and changes to child benefit are likely to drive up the number of phone calls to the department.”

She added that additional resources may be needed to avoid “plummeting performance”.

HMRC is due to introduce a call-back service for customers whose queries were not solved the first time around, and is replacing all 0845 numbers with cheaper 03 numbers.

An HMRC spokesman said: “This report criticises a previous poor standard of service from which HMRC has already recovered. We are investing an extra £34m in our contact centres to maintain this industry-standard level of performance.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Louise   18/03/2013 at 11:58

I was on hold to HMRC for 1.5 hours during my work hours. When I finally got through, I was spoken to like a criminal. Even though I was calling THEM to give them money. I find it funny that if we owe HMRC money, we are penalised for late payment, but if they overcharge us we could be left waiting for months, and we aren't paid interest on it!

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