h1

Closing the enquiry centres: part three

April 12, 2013

Let’s delve a little further into the weasel words of the consultation into closing HMRC’s enquiry centres – or, rather, the consultation into what will be left when the enquiry centres close.

3.16 When an adviser decides that the customer’s query is best dealt with by a voluntary and community sector organisation, they will provide information to the customer to help them choose the organisation most suited to their needs

So… at the moment I could wander down to my local enquiry office and ask someone a question.  Most of the time I would be pointed to a phone hanging on the wall and told to phone the helpline, but at least if I found the helpline didn’t know the answer, or I couldn’t understand what they meant, then I could make an appointment to speak to someone about it, probably with a few days wait time.  Under the new proposals I wouldn’t have that facility at all.  The choice of a face to face meeting is taken from the taxpayer and given to the Department.  Am I “needy” enough?  Would I be identified by an HMRC advisor as having sufficient “need” to warrant being given anything but the same answer over and over?

All of us who have tried to find something out on a website and got “stuck” will know how frustrating it is to be directed back to the same site, the same words.  When you don’t understand the words, or they don’t quite answer your question or fit your circumstances, and all you want is the reassurance of talking to a human being (“So if I put just ignore the pennies and put the pounds in the box that’s all right, is it?  Or do I have to round it to the nearest pound?”) well, tough.

Am I exaggerating?

And what about the idea that HMRC will simply tell some people to bog off and talk to someone else?  Or, to put it another way, “3.16 When an adviser decides that the customer’s query is best dealt with by a voluntary and community sector organisation, they will provide information to the customer to help them choose the organisation most suited to their needs”

Does this not mean, then, that some cases HMRC will decide the customer is too “needy’ or difficult, or their affairs are too complicated, or it’s simply not “cost effective” to help them, and will instead shuffle them off to a “voluntary and community sector organisation”.

Where are these organisations to come from?  Where are their volunteers, their funding, their training and experience, to take on the work that a government department has decided it hasn’t got the funds to provide for its citizens?

Am I the only person appalled by this?

For shame, HMRC.  We are citizens, not customers; we have rights and responsibilities.  And a government department doesn’t get to decide whether we’re “needy”.  And it definitely doesn’t get to decide whether we’re needy enough.

3 comments

  1. Thanks for that article, it reminded me of when I first started seeing all this “customers” business in HMRC literature, I think it was when Mr Hartnett was still the gaffer.

    It’s a bit like Mr Cameron calling the NHS a “great business”

    My amazement is the mesmerisation of the public that private enterprise is the new public services.


  2. […] centres (the consultation closes on 24th May and I’ve already blogged about it here, here and here.  Oh, and here.  Not to mention here.) I should also check out what other tax consultations are […]


  3. […] is acquiring a serious reputation for being crap at customer service.  They have closed down the customer contact centres, they are appalling at answering their phones, and they keep getting caught trying to […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: