The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has issued a report criticising the declining service standards at HMRC, marking a trend of deterioration for the fifth year in a row.

The PAC highlights long wait times for phone support, an increase in complex tax issues, and a push towards digital solutions that many find unsatisfactory. Despite a 10% rise in demand for telephone support, HMRC has reduced the availability of phone and post services, leading to 63% of callers in 2022/23 waiting over 10 minutes to speak with an adviser.

In response to the PAC inquiry, HMRC acknowledged resource limitations, proposing a shift towards digital services as a solution, despite evidence of their inadequacy from taxpayers and their agents. The PAC report criticised this digital-first approach and called for immediate improvements to ensure accessibility and timely handling of taxpayer concerns.

With tax revenues hitting a record £814 billion in 2022/23 but still falling short of compliance targets by £2bn, the PAC has made six urgent recommendations. These include enhancing service quality, addressing fraud and tax evasion, and ensuring HMRC's customer services are sufficiently resourced.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said:

"Almost eight years have passed since our committee challenged HMRC over its telephone lines' holding message being one of the most streamed pieces of music in the country. Our latest report into its performance sadly illustrates a continued tale of decline in its services.

"Our report also poses serious questions as to whether HMRC is getting the balance right between its civil and criminal prosecutions. Our findings show a steep drop in the latter at the same time as we see HMRC going to great lengths to challenge people in court over their employment status."

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