Saving £80million

June 9, 2015

The in-year budget review announcement that a further £80million is to be cut from HMRC’s budget may have passed you by. After all, the argument has been made that spending £1 on HMRC staffing brings in £25 or more of unpaid tax  so you would think that the overriding priority of deficit reduction would imply more rather than less spending on tax collection. However if all we are thinking about is costs, well, perhaps all it takes is a little thinking outside of the box.

5 ways to save £80m from HMRC

1. Reinstate 174 paper

When I started my career, tax inspectors did their calculations with pen and paper, not computer. It would cost a few thousand pounds to give every tax inspector a pad of lined “174 paper” – ruled for double entry bookkeeping – and a pencil. And, if you look at the items on this file of April’s spending  it looks as if turning off the “desktop managed serv” – which I take to be the routine desktop “managed services” available on all HMRC computers – could start us off with a few million of savings.

2. Turn off the phones

No-one answers them anyway. Or at least they aren’t meeting (table 3.1) their own “unambitious and inadequate target“. So stop doing something expensive that you’re doing badly. Turn off the phonelines altogether. And while we’re on the subject…

3. Stop answering mail

HMRC is rubbish at acknowledging, tracking, filing and above all answering pieces of post from the public.  They can’t even produce the correspondence in court. So again they should stop doing something expensive when they’re doing it badly. People can just email…

Oh. Well, they can use Googlemail on their…

Oh. Well everyone has an iPad somewhere. The staff can use googlemail on their own computers. Just THINK how much money the department would save!

4. Stop employing staff

No, hear me out. Not all of them, obviously. Just the ones that do customer service work. With no computers to work on, no phones to answer and no post to deal with, why not? Make all the customer service staff redundant and they can set up small businesses that do emailing and online tax returns for pensioners and other computerisation refuseniks for a small fee – to be paid by the customer, obviously. So HMRC won’t need customer service staff AND we’ll gain hundreds of new small businesses, thus boosting the economy!

5. You know, really, with all this self assessment, the system practically runs itself. Give all the remaining staff a year’s unpaid leave & sort out any errors the following year. Savings? £2,267.7 million (“Total net costs” table 3 page 135 here)

Easy! £80 million? Pah! If the government don’t mind how much revenue they collect and only care how much they save, well, as you can see, it’s easy peasy, and £80 million is another unambitious and inadequate target…







[Personal note: I’m off for a spot of surgery tomorrow so I won’t be around for a while.  See you on the flip side!]

[And another update on June 15th: I’m now out of hospital after rather more extensive surgery than originally indicated.  A five day stay rather than two.  Ow!  But progressing in leaps and bounds… well, incremental steps anyway.  God bless the NHS!]

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