Office Closures for HMRC Causing National Chaos
Experts in taxation have cautioned that the proposed plans on merging the local offices of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs into 13 regional hubs may possibly stretch the HMRC to great extremes. This is against the backdrop of members of staff being notified about 137 office closures over the coming decade and half.
The department views the offices to be a legacy that comes from the 1960s and the 70s. Generally they vary in terms of their size ranging from a just a handful of members of staff to several thousands.
The New Regional Hubs
The new thirteen hubs will be located in:
- London, East and South East of England – Croydon and Stratford
- North West – Liverpool and Manchester
- North East – Newcastle
- Wales – Cardiff
- Northern Ireland – Belfast
- South West – Bristol
- Scotland – Edinburgh and Glasgow
- West Midlands – Birmingham
- East Midlands – Nottingham
- Yorkshire and the Humber – Leeds
In addition, HMRC will have 4 specialist sites located at Worthing, Dover, Telford, and in Gartcosh at the Scottish Crime Campus. The new proposed set-up is estimated to save the HM Revenue & Customs £100m yearly by 2025, basically through effecting office closures in Central London.
According to Salford based MCC Accountants, the HMRC maintains too many outdated, isolated and expensive offices. Effectively, this has made it challenging for the offices to modernise their ways of operating and to implement the needed changes for transforming the service towards being customer oriented and in clamping down on the few trying to cheat and fraud the system.
Experts from the accountancy field feel that the change timing could in fact stretch HM Revenue & Customs to its breaking point. Additionally, the disruption that the changes could bring on to the leadership of the organisation ought not to be ignored. This should be viewed in terms of challenges that will come with the need to improve service standards while at the same time closing the tax gap. The ICA accountants are concerned that the timing may be wrong to reorganise a huge organisation, implement office closures and cut staff.
The PCS Union have called for broader consultation that involves the public together with discussions with employees because there is no doubt that, if and when implemented the proposals could turn to be very devastating for workers and the organisation itself.
The Future Implications
We view the logic behind the restructuring of HMRC to create 13 regional hubs as clever although it warns that it ought to be carried out with “adequate resourcing” so as to avert the possibility of morale and standards from slipping. Experts have also warned about the risks of the overhaul destabilising further services that already are under heavy strain.
However, others remain optimistic indicating that the proposals reflect potential improvements to the current tax system. They point out that online filing is certainly more economical, cheaper, and more secure, and calls for less oversight.
The wide reaching changes form part of HM Revenue & Customs’ plan of entirely overhauling the manner in which tax enquiries are handled, with more stress now being focused to online oriented advice. The reforms are in the wake of the organisation coming under heavy criticism for unanswered calls, delays and general poor customer service.