Deidre Brock MP

Member of Parliament for Edinburgh North and Leith

Tax office closures

News that 137 HMRC offices are set to be closed will come as a desperate blow to civil servants working for the tax authority. Even those who are able to transfer to one of the 13 new 'regional centres' will be worried about their future. With services already feeling the strain, those that keep their jobs will find the increased workload a heavy burden.

The closures are not just bad for staff, they are bad for the taxpayer. Failings at HMRC were highlighted by the Public Accounts Committee's recent report which found they weren't doing anywhere near enough to tackle aggressive tax avoidance and that customer service level had fallen to unacceptable levels. Hundreds of thousands of people with tax credit queries found themselves hanging in queues so long they abandoned their calls.

We also heard that fraud and error in tax credits costs HMRC £4.6bn while the proposed changes to tax credits will only save £4.4bn.

We'd all be a lot better off if HMRC was concentrating on getting its house in order instead of closing offices right across the UK.

Of course, this is a product of the Osborne austerity fetish which random figures plucked out of the air for departments to save, with some being asked to save 40% of their costs. The Chancellor should rethink that policy and start to consider what departments need instead.

HMRC needs a whole lot more tax inspectors and collectors spread across the entire UK. It should be tackling the tax evasion and avoidance of multinational firms and making sure that companies doing business here pay their taxes and that individual taxpayers get their full entitlement in tax credits and allowances.HMRC should be bringing in the money and helping to build a strong economy and it can't do that if it's been reduced to half a dozen faceless call centres.

LINKS

HMRC reveals tax office shake-up: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34796299

Public Accounts Committee Report: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/

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Thursday, 19 April 2018

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