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News : HMRC's Performance is Getting ‘Better'
London, UK, Jan 13, 2016 -- HM Revenue and Customs’ performance is getting "better and better" despite one in five phone calls not being answered within six minutes, Dame Lin Homer has said.
Dame Lin, who is quitting as HMRC chief executive, said that in three months to end of December 81per cent of calls were answered within six minutes, a record which she described as "improving".
However, Dame Lin’s claims were mocked by MPs who told her that members of the public were coming to them "almost in tears" because of the delays in answering the phone.
HMRC has been repeatedly criticised over the past year for its record in answering the phone to members of the public.
Dame Lin admitted to MPs on the cross-party Public Accounts Committee that HMRC had a "bad first quarter" – between April and June last year – when a quarter of calls to its call centre were not being answered at all.
She said the picture had improved so that in the three months to the end of December 81 per cent of phone calls were answered within six months.
She pronounced that HMRC was now "in good shape" to answer the increased number of queries ahead of the deadline for self-assessment tax returns at the end of this month.
She said: "I do apologise for that bad first quarter but the changes we are making are enabling us to serve customers better and better."
However Tory MP Stephen Phillips told her: "It’s not really better and better is it – 81 per cent of calls answered within six months."
Labour MP Chris Evans said he had seen "mountains of cases" that had "disappeared into the abyss".
He added: "The next thing they hear is a letter on the mat either a summons to appear in court or a massive tax bill.
"They then try phoning again and can’t get through and they come to me almost in tears."
Want an answer from HMRC? Better off writing a letter than using the phone, say accountants
Meg Hillier, the committee’s Labour chairman, complained that HMRC’s performance appeared to go "up and down".
She told her: "You come and tell us it has got better but then we hear another bad quarter. It is the lack of consistency."
Dame Lin, who is standing down in April after receiving a damehood in the New Year honours, replied: "I will acknowledge it is not a consistent service – a lot of the time it is extremely good and some of the time it is not, and we have tried to be very honest about that."
HMRC was trying to allow taxpayers to find answers to some more basic queries on the internet, she said.
She said: "When you have 45 million customers there will always be times of day and week that are not as good as others, but I do think we are improving our service."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Voice Mail
More Editorial From H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
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.
Published: Friday, January 15, 2016