From 1 October HMRC is replacing its current four lines of business with three groups:
- Customer Strategy and Tax Design – which will bring together the customer strategy, tax policy, process design and tax assurance teams, led by Jim Harra
- Customer Services – an expanded group to include all its big operational teams , led by Ruth Owen
- Customer Compliance – to tackle non-compliance and enforcement for all customer groups, including large businesses, led by Jennie Granger
In a briefing note to staff this week, HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson said that the move will “deepen our specialist skills and knowledge, and will help us to respond more flexibly and speedily to changing business and customer needs.
He added, “It will also make it easier to do things consistently, for example, establish our once-and-done approach across all our interactions with customers.
“Having fewer groups – whose responsibilities are clearly defined – will make it easier for both colleagues and customers to know who to talk to.”
ICAEW VP, Paul Aplin
It plays to the particular strengths of the three individuals who will lead the three new groups
A spokesperson for HMRC, said, “The way HMRC works is changing for the better. We are more determined than ever to deliver an outstanding service to our customers while clamping down on the minority of tax dodgers who try to cheat the system. Today’s announcement is about the next step in driving those commitments forward, modernising how we work.”
The Revenue’s service standards have been criticised in recent years. A report by the Public Accounts Committee published in July warned that further spending cuts to HMRC could hit taxpayers by triggering a further collapse in service standards.
The report revealed that the Revenue's helplines cost customers £1 for every £4 saved, with people waiting for their calls to be answered for 47 minutes on average.
In addition more than a quarter of people gave up on their calls due to the “unacceptable” waiting times.
HMRC’s restructure is a positive step, says ICAEW. Paul Aplin, ICAEW’s vice president said, “It plays to the particular strengths of the three individuals who will lead the three new groups and suggests that HMRC is thinking more broadly in taxpayer terms rather than in the old “heads of duty" silos.
“As HMRC develops its digital services, which continues to be a major challenge, it is a positive step to see it is prioritising changes to the customer-facing team. At a time when Brexit has created new challenges for businesses and growth is key to economic recovery, it is vital businesses and their advisers can get simple actions done effectively and efficiently by HMRC.
“While we await detail, these changes will hopefully help address phone call and post handling efficiency and help to ensure HMRC gets it right the first time. In particular, there is often a need to speak someone with detailed knowledge of the tax system rather than being directed to less experienced staff.”
In response to the reorganisation, Jonathan Riley, head of tax, Grant Thornton UK said, “Whilst we await detail, it is encouraging that HMRC seems to be focusing on strategy and design, suggesting HMRC may have greater connectivity with policy formulation than has been the case in recent years. This move combined with the Office of Tax Simplification being placed on a statutory basis suggests we may be moving into an era where we consider designing a tax regime that that works with and for business, allowing them to unlock growth and help create a vibrant economy.
“In addition, the recent improvements in the previously poor customer service is great news for the individual hard pressed tax payers, and their agents, especially as they get to grips with Making Tax Digital,” added Riley.
Last month HMRC has published a consultation on its making tax digital plan. According to the Revenue’s plans, businesses and landlords with a turnover of less than £10,000 will not be obliged to produce quarterly reports or keep their record digitally.