Union warns against tax enquiry centre closures

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  Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members in Glasgow are to protest on 24th September against plans to close offices where taxpayers receive face-to-face advice.
 
The protest follows an announcement by HM Revenue and Customs of plans to close its 281 enquiry centres, which will force people to use its internet or highly-criticised telephone services.

The closures come as HMRC seeks to drastically cut its budget in its personal taxation department, which could lead to the loss of 6,000 jobs.

The protest in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow will form part of a week of demonstrations nationwide during the week commencing 23 September.  More than 1,300 staff currently provide advice and assistance on tax issues at these offices and they helped more than 340,000 taxpayers last year.

HMRC’s understaffed call centres have already come under criticism for not being able to meet call handling targets.  On the tax credits deadline day on 31 July, only one in 10 callers were able to get through.

PCS is the UK’s sixth largest union and represents civil and public servants in central government and in parts of government transferred to the private sector.

The union has warned that closing enquiry centres will put even more of a burden on this struggling service.  The union also claims that HMRC’s savings estimate is widely exaggerated and that the closures will have a disproportionate impact on disabled people, migrant workers, the self-employed and older people, who are more likely to use the service.

Despite HMRC’s assurances this service will still be available, during a pilot scheme in the north east of England only 82 taxpayers managed to obtain a face-to-face appointment compared to 2,182 over the same period in 2012.

A spokesman for the Glasgow & Clyde branch of PCS said:

“Rather than seeking to improve their customer service, HMRC is closing its local enquiry centres, penalising ordinary taxpayers who simply needed help in filling out returns or getting advice.

“It will threaten the jobs of highly qualified and dedicated staff while heaping more pressure on the remaining workforce.  We are urging the department to keep these vital local offices open to the public.”