The publications of HMRC’s mid-year report to Parliament has shed some light on the taxman’s performance between April and September 2013 – and it doesn’t make for encouraging reading.
Against a target of 90%, HMRC revealed that just 72.7% of all incoming phone calls are answered. There was some good news though – answer rates in January (by far the busiest period for HMRC’s call centres) were substantially higher than the previous year, indicating HMRC is getting better at dealing with the personal tax rush.
Postal enquiries, meanwhile, suffered across the board. Post cleared within 14 days of receipt dropped from 79.5% in 2012/13 to 77% this year, and the percentage of responses meeting HMRC’s internal standards also dropped, from 91.8% to 90.9%.
One area in which HMRC has been making some headway is tackling avoidance, and the report highlights that tax revenues were up £11 billion year-on-year, some £8.8 billion of which arose from increased compliance activity. The shift to digital services also continues apace, with 94.1% of all transactions now occurring through HMRC Online Services, up 2.5% on last year.
Shifting priorities appear to be creating the majority of problems for HMRC – the introduction of RTI in April 2013 created an unusually high volume of calls, and staff members were shifted from other departments to deal with the excess workload. The department also had to delay the introduction of a speech recognition phone system until November, which is forecast to increase call answer volumes. Given the available evidence, it’s no wonder the majority of HMRC staff believe they do not handle change well.