The Daily Telegraph

HMRC faces strike threat as it battles to improve service

- By Daniel Woolfson

THOUSANDS of HMRC workers are preparing to vote on strike action as the taxman’s scrambles to improve “unacceptab­le” levels of customer services.

Approximat­ely half of HMRC’S staff – some 30,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union – will vote on Monday on possible walkouts in the spring.

It comes as HMRC has faced criticism for “unacceptab­le” levels of customer service in a damning report, spurring MPS to give it three months to improve its operations.

The powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which oversees government expenditur­e, said it was “unconvince­d” that HMRC’S plans to address its problems would work quickly enough.

MPS had previously written to Jim Harra, head of HMRC, to express “serious concerns” that the tax office’s work-from-home policy was leaving taxpayers waiting on the phone in the run-up to the self-assessment deadline.

Many callers were forced to wait an hour or more for HMRC to answer their queries or were cut off before receiving a response.

A spokesman for PCS, which also represents public services workers such as legal advisors, said workers were ready to strike over pay and staff cuts.

“We’ve been told 2pc is all we can get. Inflation is more than 10pc and there’s a cost of living crisis so our members are really struggling with that. It’s also over pensions, redundancy terms and job security.”

HMRC has also admitted in its financial report for 2021-22 that it could take “some years” until it has collected the billions of pounds it is owed in tax debt.

An HMRC spokesman said: “We collected a record £731bn in tax last year, have reduced taxpayer debt by almost 40pc from the peak during the pandemic, and have shrunk the UK’S tax gap by more than 30 per cent since 2005.

“We continue to prioritise collecting unpaid taxes, which is why we are adding a further 2,500 people to our compliance teams. A recent survey found most colleagues are proud to work for HMRC and would recommend it as a great place to work.”

Anger over poor customer service levels at HMRC come as new figures show almost 2m over-65s were forced to file tax returns in 2022 as an increasing number of pensioners are burdened by higher taxes.

Latest figures from HMRC show that more than 1.8million over-65s had to fill out a self assessment tax return for the previous tax year, a rise of 100,000 in five years.

Self-assessment returns need to be filed if a taxpayer earns income from investment­s, self-employment or property, or if they need to pay capital gains tax on the sale of assets.

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