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PAC calls on HMRC to improve digital and customer service

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is “still failing UK tax payers” and needs to properly manage IT systems, says the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called on HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to improve customer service and set out a “clear plan” for managing IT systems.

In a PAC report published yesterday (4 November 2015), MPs said HMRC is “still failing to provide an acceptable service to customers” – and could not tell the committee when it would be able to do so.

“HMRC should identify what impact its poor level of service is having on tax revenues and produce a detailed plan setting out how and when it will provide an acceptable standard of customer service,” the report said.

“This should include a clear plan for the efficient management of its change programme and introduction of new IT systems.”

The report said HMRC plans to modernise the services it provides through the better use of technology, such as its online renewal system for tax credit claimants.

Computer Weekly reported earlier in 2015 that HMRC is developing an online portal – the Personal Tax Account – to allow users to check all their dealings with HMRC.

However, HMRC’s poor customer service – only answering 39% of calls within five minutes – has caused significant concerns to the PAC, which is worried the low customer service standards is “having an adverse impact on the collection of tax revenues”, according to the report.  

PAC chair Meg Hillier said the improvement must happen rapidly and that its customer service, which the PAC had previously described as “abysmal”, is “now even worse – to the extent it could be considered a genuine threat to tax collection”.

HMRC recently appointed Bain & Company as its transformation partner to help the department prepare for the end of its £800m-a-year Aspire contract, which expires in July 2017.

IN a PAC hearing in September 2015, Lin Homer, CEO and permanent secretary of HMRC, said the decision to bring the IT in-house was because “we do not believe we should re-let a major monolithic contract to an overarching IT firm”.

“That is what we have done for the last 20 years, and it has given us stability, but at quite a high cost in terms of price. It is not the way most big organisations let IT now. We have decided that we should end this big contract in phased steps,” Homer said.

In January 2015, the PAC branded the plans “unrealistic”, saying the deadline of July 2017 was unachievable.

Richard Bacon MP said HMRC's record in managing IT contractors "gives us little confidence that HMRC can successfully achieve this transition, or that it can manage the proposed model effectively to maximise value for money".

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