• Overall trust in the organisation improves…

• But taxpayers increasingly find communicating with HMRC frustrating

HMRC’s latest customer satisfaction survey with customers, accountants and SMEs has delivered a mixed result, indicating the organisation may have further to go if it is to fulfil its 2015 customer service targets, according to Bloomsbury Professional, a leading tax and accounting information group.

Bloomsbury notes that the annual satisfaction survey showed an improvement in taxpayers’ perception of HMRC’s trustworthiness, honesty and integrity, as well as in its effectiveness in protecting personal and business information.

65% of accountants and 79% of SMEs surveyed regarded HMRC as trustworthy, up from just 61% and 74% in the previous year. The proportion of people saying that they feel HMRC acts with honesty and integrity has also increased. 74% of accountants now believed HMRC acts honestly, up from 68% in 2012/13, while trust from taxpayers remained consistently high at 73% over the last two years.

The survey also showed a sharp decrease in the perception that HMRC is better at collecting tax than repaying it. This year, only 41% of taxpayers and 36% of SMEs believed this to be the case, down from 59% and 41% respectively in 2010/11.

Martin Casmir, Managing Director at Bloomsbury Professional says:

“High profile crackdowns on aggressive tax avoidance schemes used by high net worths and celebrities have really boosted public support for HMRC in the last year. They have helped counteract the perception that HMRC has previously focused excessively on ordinary tax payers.

Tax calculator“It’s also a coup for the organisation that the suspicion that it is better at collecting tax than repaying it is fading slightly.”

However, the survey identified some areas where HMRC’s performance may be getting weaker.

Official targets announced by HMRC earlier this year state that by March 2015, it hopes to answer 90% of telephone calls received, as well as reply to 80% of letters within 15 working days. However, the survey found that accountants, SMEs and customers are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the ‘ease of getting in touch with HMRC’.

Only 70% of SMEs think HMRC was easy to contact, down from 80% in 2009/09, similarly, just 63% of customers thought HMRC to be easily contactable, down from 75% in 2008/09.

Martin Casmir says: “HMRC is under pressure to do more with less. This is resulting in frontline staff suffering increased workloads and getting more concerned over waiting times. It’s a real challenge for HMRC to meet customer service targets when it has had to cut back on staff.

Bloomsbury adds that since 2005, 34,000 jobs have gone from HMRC and another 10,000 are planned by 2015 under the Government's spending cuts.

The survey also found that fewer customers, accountants and SMEs consider HMRC to be communicating effectively, and keeping them adequately informed of the progress of their query. A record low proportion of accountants, just 51%, felt that HMRC keep them informed, falling from 63% in 2008/09. Just 74% of SMEs feel HMRC keeps them adequately up-to-date, down from 82% in 2008/09.

Martin Casmir says: “The survey is aimed at helping HMRC fine tune its service to customers. With communication so clearly highlighted as a key area for improvement, customers should expect a better service in the coming year.”

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