Customer service at HMRC is unlikely to improve in a hurry

If you’re one of the large number of accountants who have had cause to gripe at the poor level of customer service from HMRC, then I have bad news. It’s not going to improve much this year.

Mike Clasper, the chairman of the customer service department, has told the Treasury select committee that it will not “be in a great place until 2013.”

Clasper admitted that he was unhappy about the poor level of customer service but that a lot of that stemmed from staff attempting to clear an eight year backlog of cases. Now that the new PAYE system is operational, this backlog should be cleared at the end of next year.

He believes that customer service will steadily improve but for the next couple of years it will still not be as good as we would hope. By 2014, the Revenue’s customer service will be stronger again, he assured the committee.

There have been accusations that HMRC employees were disengaged from the customer, an accusation Clasper was quick to deny. He did however admit that the staff were disenchanted with their workload. The civil service neither likes, nor manages well, change and the Revenue has not provided the necessary tools to implement the changes they need to make.

HMRC is cutting out some of its internal bureaucracy by cutting management layers from 13 to between 7 and 8, he added.

Dame Leslie Strathie, the permanent secretary and chief executive of HMRC, said that pensioners are particularly affected by this backlog and she apologised to customers for the poor standard of service.

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