How’s the future looking for HMRC?

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HMRC is upbeat in a new year progress report on its modernisation programme to “become the tax authority of the future”.

An update on GOV.UK  says the revenue is “very close” to the target of 90 per cent of staff being able to move into regional hubs that will be replacing 170 local offices.

The civil service trade union is a tad more more downbeat. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka reckons the HMRC readiness assessment is a “fallacy”.

He urges the government to halt the transformation, warning of a staffing crisis if things continue as they are.

“HMRC’s claim that 90 per cent of staff will be able to move to the new regional hub offices is already proving to be a fallacy. The department’s own figures show that it has lost 17,000 years’ worth of experience in the last year alone as a result of the office closures,” says Mark.

“With wages continuing to stagnate, HMRC is finding it difficult to retain new staff, making it harder to deliver its core functions. This government needs to accept that HMRC’s transformation programme should to be halted as it will leave us with a tax authority not fit for purpose.”

On the other hand, HMRC says the new hubs will make it easier for staff to collaborate and work flexibly.

“Our regional centres are in locations where the majority of our employees are already based – the impact on our people was key to our location decisions. We want to keep as many people as we can and still expect around 90% of our 2015 workforce across the UK will either work in a regional centre or see out their career in an existing HMRC office.

“We have been clear that, if someone can move to a regional centre, transitional site or specialist site, and has the skills HMRC needs or is able to develop them – there will be a role for them. The moves to regional centres will be phased, with some offices remaining open for longer as stepping stone sites and transitional sites remaining open for up to ten years.”

Here are a few more points from the HMRC:

  • Through the Locations Programme, HMRC is on track to deliver savings of around £300m up to 2025. It will deliver annual cash savings of £74m in the tax year 2025 to 2026, rising to around £90m from 2028, while modernising how HMRC works, and helping to improve customer service.
  • High-speed digital infrastructure will support state-of-the-art data analysis and risk assessment systems to help HMRC target compliance activity.
  • Analysis shows that improved IT and high-speed broadband/WiFi at our Croydon regional centre are already allowing more flexible working.
  • We have just under 60,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) colleagues, up from 57,000 FTE in 2015. In part, this is due to recruitment of nearly 3,000 people into customer services. We also received extra investment in the 2017 Budget to support our work to tackle avoidance, evasion and non-compliance which led to the recruitment of an extra 1,400 FTE.
  • We’ve always had a pivotal role in making sure that goods flow into, and out of, the UK, and in making sure we collect any taxes and duty due on them. That’s why we’re now delivering essential programmes that will support access to European and world markets.
  • As we prepare for an EU exit, we are creating additional roles and have launched several recruitment campaigns.
  • Currently there are around 3,000 FTE working on EU exit (at 31 October). Depending on the final outcome of negotiations, we may need up to 5,300 FTE. However, we have already secured additional temporary accommodation in regional centre locations across the UK and increased the size of some regional centres to support this work.
  • As a department we’ve prioritised the projects that make the most difference, pausing some work and stopping other projects to make room for this EU exit work.

As far as the future goes, HMRC’s message has some phrases that will resonate with accountants everywhere…

“We need tax specialists with digital skills, along with data analysts and digital experts.”

And to bring that about? “That’s why we plan to work with universities and local colleges to attract the best and brightest talent.

“We have cutting-edge systems that enable analysts to sort and sift billions of pieces of data to find discrepancies – so we need people who understand digital technology and can make the most of it.

“We are on track to achieve our ambition of becoming the world’s most digitally advanced tax authority.”

All sounds good in theory…