MPs are demanding urgent improvements to HMRC’s “unacceptable service standards” after a parliamentary report discovered an “eye-watering” £42 billion is owed to HMRC from unpaid tax.
The report also highlighted a dramatic drop in HMRC staffing levels, with 6,000 employees being cut over the past five years.
Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said:“The eye-watering £42 billion now owed to HMRC in unpaid taxes would have filled a lot of this year’s infamous public spending black hole.”
The public accounts committee report, meanwhile, reads: “We do not consider that HMRC has the resources required to provide the level of service its customers need, or to maximise the tax revenues it collects, at a time when the public finances are under huge strain.”
The average speed of answering incoming calls to HMRC helplines was 12.22 minutes in 2021/22, almost double the length of waiting times in 2019/20, while there have even been reports of people on hold at HMRC for hours at a time.
Harriett Baldwin, Head of the Treasury Committee, wrote to HMRC chief executive Jim Harra, requesting an explanation for the long phone waits experienced by taxpayers.
In light of the growing number of complaints, Baldwin asked whether the disruption to the service was due to high levels of demand, too many HMRC staff members working from home, or whether the delays were connected to the IT issues experienced in early December 2022.
In the letter, Baldwin said:”It is of serious concern that taxpayers are apparently unable to reach HMRC by telephone in the run-up to the 31 January online self-assessment deadline.”
The MP also asked what steps were being taken to resolve the reported concerns and whether HMRC would implement procedures to prevent similar issues in the future.