The UK tax authority has announced that they plan on shutting all of the UK’s 281 drop-in offices. Should taxpayers require assistance with their tax affairs, if this plan goes ahead, they will have to phone helplines, which are already notoriously busy.
The Enquiry Centres in question were used last year by approximately 2.5 million taxpayers who needed help with tax bills, pensions, and other tax related issues. The drops in centres have become too expensive though, according to HMRC, and costs need to be cut. HMRC has said that the Enquiry Centres will be replaced by ‘roaming advisers’ who will visit a person’s own home or business to offer one-to-one support where it is needed.
HMRC have announced this move after revealing that the number of people visiting the 281 centres has halved since 2005/6, and that the average cost per visit was £152 last year, compared with £3 per phone call and 9p per online transaction.
Before going ahead with closing all offices, a trial will be carried out. 13 centres will close in the North and North East of England, including York, Sunderland, Scarborough, Newcastle, Durham and Darlington. If the trials are successful, all remaining centres will be closed next year.
Lin Homer, chief executive of HMRC has argued in favour of the office closures sating that: ‘HMRC will provide a more modern and accessible service that will target the right support to customers who need it, where and when they want it.’
A spokesperson for the Public and Commercial Services union has retaliated against HMRC reasoning though, claiming that closing the face-to-face enquiry centres in the country would cut off vital personal support for pensioners and other vulnerable taxpayers. The union is asking members of the public to take part in HMRC’s consultation, which ends in May, and to write to their MPs to protest against the move.