Restructure shakes up customer service and compliance teams at HMRC
In a major shakeup, HMRC has announced plans to restructure the organisation to improve customer service and focus on client needs, marking a move away from the siloed approach of the current tax department as it creates three core groups to deal with customers, strategy and compliance
8 Sep 2016
The reorganisation has been communicated to key stakeholders in a bid to reassure the profession about the imminent rollout of Making Tax Digital, which will rely increasingly on an online, digital approach to an increasingly complex tax environment.
This is the key element of HMRC’s Building our Future programme. HMRC staff were informed of the changes on 6 September.
The bulk of the restructure will take effect in October with the full reorganisation slated for a December 2016 completion date.
The core of the new structure will be customer strategy and tax design, with newly structured customer compliance and customer services teams, all supported by the existing corporate services and transformation teams.
Effectively the current four HMRC directorates will be streamlined into three distinct divisions:
From 1 October, the existing four directorates will be reorganised into three groups:
- a new customer strategy and tax design group, which brings together customer strategy, tax policy, process design and tax assurance teams, led by Jim Harra, director general business tax;
- an expanded customer service group, which includes the main operational teams, led by Ruth Owen, currently director general customer services;
- a customer compliance group, which will tackle non-compliance and enforcement for all customer groups, including large businesses, led by Jennie Granger, current director general enforcement and compliance.
Central to the customer strategy and tax design group will be the inclusion of representatives from customer services reorganised. This group will include personal tax customer product and process staff, who will take up their new roles in October, while specialist personal tax teams with expertise in policy, technical, shares and valuation, will come on board by December 2016. The fourth directorate, headed up by Nick Lodge, covering general benefits and credits will be assimilated into the other three core groups.
Business tax customer and strategy experts will also join this central overarching department, while some business tax specialists will be transferred to the revamped customer services operation.
In a briefing note to key stakeholders, HMRC director of corporate communications Stephen Hardwick said: ‘As we have been evolving what we do, and where we do it, as part of this transformation, we have also kept our organisational structure under review, to ensure that it is fit for the future and that it supports our new digital and collaborative ways of working.
‘As a result, we have now decided to make some further changes to how we are structured. From October, we will be reorganising the directorates in our four existing lines of business into three new groups.’
An HMRC spokesperson told CCH Daily: ‘The way HMRC works is changing for the better. We are more determined than ever to deliver an outstanding service to our customers while clamping down on the minority of tax dodgers who try to cheat the system.
‘This announcement is about the next step in driving those commitments forward, modernising how we work.’
There will also be no redundancies as a result of this restructure.
Following criticism of HMRC’s customer service, fragmented approach to agents and customers across the organisation, and poor telephone answering capabilities, improvements to the structure of the customer-facing team will be welcomed by tax advisers and tax managers across the profession.
There are also concerns about HMRC's ability to roll out Making Tax Digital within the timeframe for completion by 2019, particularly with current resourcing and the complexity of the programme.
John Cullinane, tax policy director at the CIOT, said: ‘We hope that this is HMRC taking a more integrated approach to its policy decisions and achieving its policy goals. We look forward to seeing if the changes lead to a greater role for HMRC in policy development.
‘It would be interesting to know to what extent this is a result of the two major challenges facing HMRC at the moment - Making Tax Digital and Brexit.’
Responding to the changes to the internal structure of HMRC Jonathan Riley, head of tax at Grant Thornton UK LLP said: ‘Whilst we await detail, it is encouraging that HMRC seems to be focusing on strategy and design, suggesting HMRC may have greater connectivity with policy formulation than has been the case in recent years.
‘This move combined with the Office of Tax Simplification being placed on a statutory basis suggests we may be moving into an era where we consider designing a tax regime that that works with and for business, allowing them to unlock growth and help create a vibrant economy.
‘In addition, the recent improvements in the previously poor customer service is great news for the individual hard pressed tax payers, and their agents, especially as they get to grips with Making Tax Digital.’