HMRC claims digital tax success as personal registrations pass 7m

Tax collection agency beats target by 400,000 users months ahead of self-imposed deadline

By Rebecca Hill

20 Feb 2017

HM Revenue & Customs’ just-published quarterly performance figures reveal there were 7.4m people using a digital personal tax account by the end of 2016 – 400,000 ahead of a target set for this April.

The tax-collection agency’s Single Departmental Plan, published initially in 2016, said that it wanted to have 7m digital tax users by April 2017.

However, HMRC has yet to achieve its customer satisfaction targets for digital services. It is aiming for an average of 80% customer satisfaction but achieved only 75.1% in the last nine months of 2016, when it first started recording this statistic.

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The latest quarterly figures, released on February 16, also show that the period of October to December 2016 had the lowest average customer satisfaction of the year, of 74.2% - down from 76% in July to September.

The department said it would “continue to closely monitor our performance against this target as our digital services grow and develop”.

Elsewhere in the report, figures show that the tax authority has continued to exceed its target to reply to 95% of i-forms and secure emails within seven days, with a consistent 99% response rate throughout 2016.

HMRC’s digital targets are part of its aim to be the most digitally advanced in the world, which includes efforts to modernise its IT estate and encourage people to interact with the department online, as well as its “Making Tax Digital” reforms, the final details of which were set out in the draft Finance Bill earlier this month.

The agency has also said it wants to make better use of data to improve compliance, personalise services and better target potential exporters, and is recruiting for a data exploitation officer to drive its wider data strategy.

More broadly, HMRC has said that, through the digitisation of tax collection and employing “a smaller but more highly skilled workforce”, it will make £1.9bn in cumulative sustainable efficiency savings over the course of this parliament.

The sustainable cost savings target for the 2016-17 financial year is £203m, but the most recent figures show that its savings between April and December 2016 come to £118.6m, with just £21.8m sustainable cost savings during the most recent, third quarter. This is compared with £46.7m in the first quarter of the 2016-17 financial year and £50.1m in the second.

The draft Finance Bill is due to come under the scrutiny of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Finance Bill Sub-Committee, with a session on 22 February hearing from the Making Tax Digital programme director Theresa Middleton and HMRC director general of customer strategy and tax design Jim Harra.

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