After facing a grilling from a parliamentary committee, Strathie rebutted claims that almost 7 million callers did not receive accurate advice in 2008 – 2009.
She told the Public Accounts Committee that the number of 7m was centred on ‘external quality standards’ and was an ‘unfair’ reflection on the service provided by HMRC staff.
Committee chair, Edward Leigh MP, had criticised HMRC for their poor call-answering statistics and that the service had a ‘dismal’ record compared to the private sector.
Strathie, however, told the committee that the 6.8 million calls that were considered to have been given inaccurate advice were not solely judged on ‘errors in guidance’ but whether operators had followed an exact script. Strathie back her claims by stating that digression from required wording did not always result in incorrect guidance.
In answer to the poor call-answering record, Chris Hopson, director of customer contact at HMRC, reported that an average of 77% of calls has been answered so far in 2010 compared to 55% in 2009 and 33% in the summer of 2008.
Despite an increase in call volume, HMRC have announced the closure of up to 130 offices meaning a loss almost 1,700 jobs.
The reason for this is, according to HMRC, that due to the increasing number of taxpayers filing their Self-Assessment Returns online there is less demand for workers to carry out ‘low grade manual work’.