Digital tax shift is biggest challenge for HMRC, according to its CEO

The Chief Executive of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Jon Thompson, has told member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that switching to online customer services will be a significant challenge for the department.

During the meeting, committee member Caroline Flint MP questioned Jon Thompson about his biggest concerns for HMRC moving forward.

She said: “The department is facing further reductions in expenditure and staff support towards personal taxpayers, and the digital services have got to be developed.”

In response, Thompson said that he felt the transfer to digital tax posed “the most significant strategic risk”, although he said that the process had, in some ways, already begun with 40 per cent of customers already renewing their tax credits online

“The service needs to mature and people need to be able to trust it,” he said, “then you do see a channel shift”.

The comments come after a recent National Audit Office report criticised HMRC for badly timed staff cuts, which led to call waiting times tripling in the first seven months of 2015-16.

However, Thompson said the issue had undergone a “significant recovery”, with the most recent figures showing that 90 per cent of calls were being handled and the average call length was six minutes.

The move to digital tax is part of HMRC’s plans to reduce spending by 34 per cent by 2020, a point that Ruth Owen, director general for customer service, said would not impact on the delivery of services to customer thanks to the phasing in of new polices and a series of early-warning systems.