William Eichler 12 January 2018

‘Under pressure’ HMRC threatens welfare claimants, MPs warn

‘Under pressure’ HMRC threatens welfare claimants, MPs warn image

MPs have warned HMRC’s attempts at modernising amount to a ‘precarious high-wire act’ that threatens welfare claimants.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published today warns HM Revenue & Customs has to make ‘tough decisions’ on how it allocates limited resources to its operations.

HMRC is currently undertaking 15 major transformation programmes, all while preparing for Brexit.

The committee is concerned this will have a negative impact on the taxpayer and, in particular, questioned whether HMRC is doing enough to support vulnerable Tax Credits recipients, especially as they transfer to Universal Credit.

The MPs also said there was a lack of incentive for HMRC to reduce Tax Credits fraud and error in the transition period to the benefits system.

‘HMRC's transformation programme would have been less risky had it not attempted to do everything at the same time,’ said the committee chair Meg Hillier MP.

‘What was already a precarious high-wire act is now being battered by the winds of Brexit, with potentially catastrophic consequences.’

‘HMRC accepts something has to give and it now faces difficult decisions on how best to use its limited resources—decisions that must give full consideration to the needs of all taxpayers,’ continued Ms Hillier.

‘In particular we are concerned about the effect on people simply trying to pay their fair share. HMRC’s customer service has improved on the appalling levels of recent years but its claims about call-answering times don’t stack up. Any new deterioration would be wholly unacceptable.

‘There are concerns too about the impact of changes in the welfare system, which could increase the financial risks faced by vulnerable Tax Credits claimants. At the same time, the level of Tax Credits fraud and error has gone up and is only going to get worse.

‘These are serious, pressing challenges for HMRC, requiring swift and coordinated action in Government. As a matter of urgency the authority must set out a coherent plan and demonstrate it is fit for the future.’

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