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12 Nov 2015 10:48am

HMRC announces 137 office closures

HMRC has announced it will close 137 of its 170 offices in the next decade, to be replaced by 13 new regional tax centres as the Revenue seeks to reduce its budget by hundreds of millions of pounds

HMRC staff have today been told which cities will host the new centres and how this will affect jobs. Around the country, HMRC’s 170 offices host staff numbers ranging from 6,000 to less than 10.

The Revenue added that it expects the majority of staff to be able to move from the current offices, but explained that it would aim to eventually have fewer staff, with phased redundancies over the next 10-years.

The news is part of HMRC’s 10-year modernisation plan, billed as a route to creating a tax authority fit for the future. HMRC said the changes would enable it to give customers better service at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

Lin Homer, HMRC’s chief executive, said, “HMRC has too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices.

“This makes it difficult for us to collaborate, modernise our ways of working, and make the changes we need to transform our service to customers and clamp down further on the minority who try to cheat the system.”

She added that the Revenue was committed to modern, regional centres throughout the UK and said that jobs would and should not be concentrated in London.

“The new regional centres will bring our staff together in more modern and cost-effective buildings in areas with lower rents,” Homer added.

“They will also make a big contribution to the cities where they are based, providing high-quality, skilled jobs and supporting the government’s commitment for a national recovery that benefits all parts of the UK.”

The city’s hosting regional centres will include Newcastle in the north east; Bristol in the south west; Nottingham in the East Midlands; and Cardiff in Wales, as well as others.

HMRC first announced it would be informing staff about the changes yesterday. A spokesperson said, “We will inform our staff about the future direction of our estate.

“We have been clear for some time that this will mean fewer, but larger and more modern offices that will help us to deliver better services to our customers and bring in more tax revenue for public services.”

The news follows a damning indictment from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over the state of HMRC’s customer services – particularly on answering phone lines – labelling them “woefully inadequate and unambitious”.

Talking to the Telegraph, MP Meg Hillier – who is also chair of the PAC – said the upheaval would lead to more problems at HMRC.

“It is difficult enough getting through on the phones and getting that one-to-one advice,” Hillier said. “This upheaval, at the very least in the short term, will promise more difficulties.”

Frank Haskew, head of ICAEW’s tax faculty, agreed with Hillier, adding that the UK tax system was already “struggling to cope” with the demands being placed on it.

“This restructuring will place yet more pressure on an organisation that is not delivering the level of service taxpayers have a right to expect,” Haskew said.

“Service standards are deteriorating with taxpayers having to spend longer and longer on the phone trying to get through or waiting for their letters to be answered.”

He emphasised the importance of providing HMRC with the resources it needs, so that it can provide an “efficient and effective” tax system, which would in turn encourage increased levels of compliance.

He said, “We shouldn’t underestimate the disruption that this restructuring will have on HMRC and the distraction it will cause to its leadership as they seek to implement it.

“Our tax code is overly complex and places a significant regulatory and compliance burden particularly on small businesses whose focus should be on contributing to economic growth,” he added.

Oliver Griffin

 

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