HMRC is rolling out a mass voluntary redundancy scheme which is set to target 2,000 staff across the country according to Harris & Co accountants Northampton as part of their service to small and medium sized businesses in and around Northampton.
The tax authority’s ‘voluntary exit scheme’ was launched this week with about 150 staff targeted in Scotland, while nearly 250 civil service jobs in Northern Island’s Enniskillen, Londonderry, Newry and Belfast are also set to be hit.
HMRC has confirmed that the announcement will affect 21 tax offices around the country, specifically those working in roles in debt managment and banking. It said it expected about 700 to take up the offer.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said the announcement by HMRC affected in total 1,500 staff in personal taxes and compliance, and a further 480 in debt management.
‘In an unusual move, staff have been told there has been no formal decision to close any of the 21 affected sites but the department does "not see them featuring in [its] long-term plans"’, the PCS said.
HMRC this week indicated that the redundancies were due to customers choosing to do business with the tax department online.
Since 2005, 34,000 jobs have been lost at HMRC and another 10,000 are planned by 2015 under the government"s spending cuts.
An HMRC spokesman said that an increasing number of customers are "choosing to do business through its online services which has reduced our need for physical sites".
"This change has seen the nature of our work shift away from mass-processing work of the past to more specialist, but less labour-intensive, roles required in effective policing of the tax system," the spokesman said.
But industry figures say the cuts could compromise the tax authority’s ability to operate the system.
The Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) earlier this week raised concerns about the unsustainable strains the cuts would place on HMRC, with the result of additional pressure and stress on its frontline staff.
Yvette Nunn, president of the ATT, said it is in the Exchequer’s interest to have a properly resourced HMRC.
‘We understand why HMRC resources have to be committed to tackling non-compliance and harnessing the power of digital communication but that must not be at the expense of today’s compliant taxpayers who simply want to speak with someone to keep their tax affairs in order. Giving HMRC staff the job satisfaction that they deserve is a vital step in maintaining public confidence in our tax system,’ said Nunn.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said it made no sense to cut resources further when more than £120bon is slipped through HMRC"s fingers each year.
‘The government should be investing in the department that collects the taxes that fund all our other vital public services. Our advice to those affected is to not make any hasty decisions and wait for union meetings on their site.
‘With tax evasion depriving our economy of £70bn a year, and another £50bn lost through avoidance and non-collection, we believe the department needs more resources.
‘The £77m the government has pledged for the next two years and a previous "re-investment" of £900m are dwarfed by the £3bn in cuts to HMRC"s budget announced in the spending review in October 2010,’ said Serwotka.