An article in last week’s Daily Telegraph takes a pop at HMRC. The story is one of many they and other papers have been running for some time, namely about the problems the tax authority has with the level and quality of its customer service. And given that most of us are its ‘customers’ that is a big issue.
More specifically, the Telegraph has uncovered a job advert for HMRC for the position of a “Support Officer.” Although principally an admin role, part of the responsibilities include “resolving customer queries and complaints in a courteous and professional manner.” But, and it’s quite an important but, applicants do not need “any existing knowledge or experience of tax to apply.”
To be fair, and having spoken to a friend who is a real expert in recruitment, we get that this line is simply a way to open up the potential pool of applicants and, more importantly, there will be few other jobs outside HMRC where these potential applicants might gain an understanding of tax. Clearly, as HMRC pointed out when quizzed by the Telegraph, training will be provided.
The fact is that individual staff at HMRC do, in the vast majority of cases, work hard and conscientiously. However, the people above them do not seem capable of running a bath, as is only too evident when they are grilled by the Treasury Select Committee.
A further fact, and one that us ‘customers’ are stuck with at present, is that (excluding the Tax Credit Service), of the 27 basic services provided by HRMC, 12 have significant delays. A further five that are ‘normal service’ are taking 40 working days (in other words, eight weeks) to deal with customers’ queries. Appalling and shambolic doesn’t begin to tell the story. You can see more details about HMRC’s ‘service’ at this link. Click on ‘professional accountant’ to get access to the facts.
Sadly, as we know only too well, this is all part of the customer service experience we receive from HMRC nowadays. How many customers in real life would continue to give an organisation their business if they were treated like this? Not many. The problem is, we don’t have an option.
Stewart McKinnon, Director, M&S Accountancy and Taxation