News : HMRC Boss Given Damehood Despite ‘Abysmal' Customer Service
London, UK, Dec 31, 2015 -- The head of HMRC who has criticised for a series of failings and "abysmal" levels of customer service has been awarded a Damehood in the New Year's honours list.
Lin Homer, who received a pay package last year, has been made a Dame in recognition of her "public service particularly to public finance".
MPs said that the decision to award Miss Homer a Damehood was "wrong" after a series of damning reports into the taxman's performance.
In November it emerged that HMRC failed to answer half of all calls in the first six months of this year, while the taxman has also been accused of failing to do enough to tackle tax evasion by the super rich.
Nigel Mills, a Conservative member of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "There are serious questions about how HMRC is performing, it is failing to answer enough calls and collect enough money from large businesses and tax avoiders.
"You would think you would want that sorting out before you gave someone a gong. I don't understand why we have to have every well paid civil servant in every department getting a knighthood of damehood.
"Surely these honours should go to captains of industry who have created lots of jobs or people who have done transformational things for charities. It seems wrong to me."
Miss Homer's appointment as chief executive in 2011 was dogged by controversy after MPs said she had been responsible for a "catastrophic leadership failure" in her former role as head of the UK Border Agency.
The Home Affairs Select Committee said it was "astounding" that she had been given the role after it emerged that the backlog of asylum and immigration cases was so long that it would take 24 years to clear.
Miss Homer said at the time that it was "wholly inaccurate and unfair" to blame her for matters that emerged after she left the agency.
She has also been heavily criticised for her performance at HMRC. In November a report by the Public Accounts Committee warned that HMRC's customer service failings are creating a "genuine threat to tax collection" amid fears that people are paying the wrong amount.
Half of all calls to the taxman in the first six months of this year were not picked up, equivalent to 12 million unanswered calls. A separate report by Which?, a consumer watchdog, have to wait an average of 38 minutes for someone to answer their calls.
HMRC has also been criticised for failing to make any prosecutions after it was handed the names of hundreds of British customers who used a Swiss bank account which allegedly helped clients avoid taxes. Earlier this month the National Audit Office said that HMRC is not doing enough to crack down on those who dodge tax.
Miss Homer receives a salary, along with pension contributions. She has also received a bonus in each of the last two years. She said at the time that she "deserved" the bonus.
HMRC is currently closing 137 local offices and replacing them with regional centres, raising fears over job losses.
An HMRC spokesman said: "Since joining in January 2012, Lin Homer has led HMRC to deliver more and at a lower cost to taxpayers than ever before.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC):
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was formed on the 18 April 2005, following the merger of Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise Departments. HMRC ensures the correct tax is paid at the right time, whether this relates to payment of taxes received by the department or entitlement to benefits paid.
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