Citizens Advice Scotland has welcomed a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee that calls on HMRC to produce a detailed plan setting out how and when it will provide an acceptable standard of customer service. In the first half of 2015, HMRC answered only 50% of the calls received by its contact centres.
Responding to the report, CAS spokesperson Gael Scott says,
"Our evidence fully supports the conclusion of the Public Accounts Committee that the service provided to customers by HMRC is simply unacceptable. We regularly see cases where CAB clients and advisers have waited more than half an hour on the phone trying to get through to HMRC to resolve tax credits or income tax problems. In many cases, clients and advisers have been unable to get through to HMRC at all.
As well as being frustrating, this is a complete waste of time and money. These waits can be particularly detrimental for low income clients – we’ve seen many run up large phone bills or spend all their phone credit on hold to HMRC. It also means that issues are too often left unresolved. For example, a client can be trying to call HMRC to report a change in their circumstances; if they are unable to get through, they may not receive the support they are entitled to or may have difficulties in the future because of overpayments.
If the UK Government goes ahead with its proposed changes to tax credits, this will affect a very large number of people (about 14% of all households in Scotland). Unless HMRC takes immediate action to improve its customer service, we are concerned that the situation will only get worse."