15 May 2024

Here at the CIPP, we see ourselves as ‘critical friends’ of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), but sometimes we need to be more critical than others. A new report released by the National Audit Office (NAO) has prompted one of those times with some fairly heavy criticism of HMRC’s services and customer experience.

The report examines HMRC’s trends in customer service performance, progress towards strategic goals and future plans to achieve performance levels.

To save you diving into the 69-page report, here are some key facts and figures that may be of interest to payroll professionals:

  • In 2022-23 HMRC spent £881 million on customer service
  • Digital services have not reduced service pressures as much as HMRC anticipated
  • In the first 11 months of 2023-24 83% of customers reported being ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ in an exit survey after using digital services
  • Average wait times for telephone lines are up to 23 minutes in the first three months of 2023-24 (up from just five minutes in 2018-29)
  • Customers spent 7 million hours waiting to speak to an advisor in 2022-23, more than double than in 2019-20
  • It is estimated that 72% of call received in 2023-24 were due to failure demand (caused by process failures, delays or chasing progress)
  • HMRC estimates that 66% of its call could be dealt with using online methods
  • Customer awareness of digital services is low, only 21% of taxpayers are aware of the app for example
  • Planned customer service staff reductions will likely see further reduction in call-handling performance as supportive actions are still in early development stages
  • After reversing plans to close phone lines temporarily, HMRC now expects that only 65-70% of callers will get through to an advisor, below its target of 85%
  • HMRC does not fully understand the impact its poor service has on economic activity or tax revenue.

The conclusion is that HMRC is not delivering value for money against its current targets. A conclusion echoed in a Committee of Public Accounts report that stated HMRC “has not been given the resources it needs from HM Treasury to meet the service standards that customers expect.”

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, comments:

“By law, taxpayers must engage with the tax system. But for its part, HMRC’s performance in picking up the phone to customers has hit an all-time low.

“Its digital by default approach is trying to force customers to engage online.

“But customers spent a total of 798 years waiting to speak to an adviser in 2022-23, more than double the amount in 2019-20. This shows there is still strong demand for a telephone service and that it is not good enough.

“HMRC must hear the frustration of taxpayers and make more realistic plans to improve customer service and deliver value for money.”

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