The Press

IRD set to cut almost 2000 jobs

- TOM PULLAR-STRECKER

Inland Revenue plans to cut almost 2000 jobs, and has briefed staff on changes to hundreds of roles that will kick in next year.

The tax department currently employs 5647 staff, but expects to employ only 3700 people by 2021, a previously-secret budget document supplied to a select committee shows.

The Public Services union (PSA) said in a statement that as many 4000 employees at the tax department would see their jobs change as a result of a final proposal that was put to staff across the country yesterday.

‘‘Make no mistake – this proposal contains future commitment­s to reduce IRD’s workforce by 30 per cent by 2021, and this is the first step in accomplish­ing that,’’ PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk said.

Inland Revenue closed its doors yesterday to brief staff on its plans.

Commission­er Naomi Ferguson said its 3300 customer-facing staff were all being offered or confirmed in new roles at the department. But about 900 other staff would see their jobs change, with a reduction in management and more roles for specialist­s.

The tax department signalled last year it expected to cut about 1500 jobs between 2018 and 2021.

The forecast released by Parliament’s Finance and Expenditur­e select committee indicates the cuts will go even deeper and will start on a small scale next year, before kicking in strongly in 2019.

Polaczuk said the final proposal put to staff today contained ‘‘a lot of vague, corporate rhetoric’’ and showed the department had ‘‘not taken the concerns of over 3000 PSA members into account’’.

‘‘The loss of expert staff and the lack of certainty for workers reapplying for more simplistic­ally modified roles means that important regulatory changes to the tax system rest on very shaky foundation­s.

‘‘This could affect up to 4000 staff in varying ways at this stage of the restructur­e, and this has not been fully explained,’’ she said.

Polaczuk said the PSA was also concerned Inland Revenue was proposing to expand some people’s job duties while cutting entry-level pay for some positions, such as customer service operators. ‘‘Whether you call it ‘streamlini­ng’ or ‘cost-cutting’, this plan could negatively affect our country’s ability to pursue tax avoidance and compliance, as well as making life much more difficult for ordinary people seeking tax advice from IRD call centres,’’ she said.

Inland Revenue reopened its call centres at 3.30pm, but its offices around the country will remain closed to the public for the rest of the day.

The changes it is making stem from its $1.9 billion Business Transforma­tion (BT) programme which will see Inland Revenue replace its aging computer systems and ensure individual­s and businesses are taxed more accurately through the year, reducing the need for additional tax payments and annual tax refunds.

A shake up to child support payments proposed last week as part of the BT programme would see them all automatica­lly deducted from parents’ wages, with child support and Working for Families benefits potentiall­y adjusted more frequently through the year to better match people’s obligation­s and entitlemen­ts.

Parliament’s Finance and Expenditur­e select committee said in February that the Treasury had suggested it was ‘‘optimistic’’ to expect the total cost of the BT programme to come in at $1.9b.

‘‘The Treasury said that, if the anticipate­d savings of about $740m are not realised, the Government will need to provide significan­tly more funding for the programme,’’ the committee said.

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