Tax advice centres in North Yorkshire to close to make way for call centres and individual appointments

First published in News
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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Richmond)

TAX advice for North Yorkshire residents is now to be given over the phone instead of in a drop-in centre.

Face-to-face support will still be available for customers who need extra help with tax returns, tax credits and child benefit entitlements but it will be on an individual appointment basis.

HM Revenue and Customs said a new mobile advisor service will be available for customers who need to speak to an expert in person, as well as being able to reach advisors over the phone.

Following the launch of the new service in May 2014, the current enquiry centres in York, Bridlington, Scarborough, Harrogate, Ripon and Skipton will close.

The Public and Commercial Services union PCS said it opposes the decision.

A spokesman said: “We believe our enquiry centres provide a vital public service, which allows taxpayers to access free, expert advice from highly skilled HMRC staff.

“We fundamentally disagree with HMRC’s view that the new service, diverting taxpayers from a free, face-to-face appointment to costly, under-staffed telephone lines, is better.

“We are also extremely concerned about the implications of this decision on the 1,300 people currently working in the enquiry centres who are now faced with extremely difficult decisions about their future in HMRC.”

But a spokeswoman from Revenue and Customs said there would be no compulsory redundancies and that staff could be moved to other roles in the area.

Ruth Owen, HMRC’s director general for personal tax, said: “HMRC is dedicated to providing help to customers when they need it.

“Our enquiry centres offer a great service to those who can reach them. But they are spread unevenly across the UK, the number of people using them continues to fall, and our research shows that the majority of customers who do use them don’t actually need to.

“Our specialised phone service will help customers whose affairs can be resolved over the telephone, and our face-to-face help will be available to those who need it, visiting them at a place convenient to them.”

HMRC said it will make more funding available for voluntary sector organisations to help them to deal with customers who turn to them for help.

HMRC is discussing the impacts of these changes with staff in enquiry centres and its unions.

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