HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will next week open talks with civil service unions on the future of around 200 of its staff, the department has confirmed.
A 90-day consultation will begin on Monday, with the tax authority saying that while no final decisions have been made on whether jobs will go, the process could result in compulsory redundancies.
Civil Service World has been told that the staff involved are mainly those working at administrative grades, with the process set to affect a number of HMRC sites around the country.
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"Today we have informed around 200 colleagues, who do not currently have a permanent role within HMRC, that we will consult with the department's trade unions to discuss their future," an HMRC spokesperson said in a statement issued on Thursday night.
"This may result in some of the people in this group receiving a notice of compulsory redundancy. No final decisions have been made yet. What we are announcing is the start of a rigorous process to see whether we can find them new roles and avoid the need for compulsory redundancies wherever we can."
It is understood that HMRC staff were informed of the impending consultation process on Thursday, in an internal post by the department's chief people officer William Hague.
A union source told CSW that the opening of the consultation – which follows weeks of discussions with unions – was a result of the department finding it "more difficult" to redeploy its existing staff as it seeks to restructure. But the source said both sides appeared "absolutely committed" to an outcome that would keep the "maximum number of people in jobs".
The HMRC spokesperson said the department would aim to "support people fully through the process", and stressed that the announcement was not a reflection "on the contribution and commitment of the people affected".
While HMRC remains the third-largest of the government departments, it has cut its workforce by 20% since 2010, according to figures analysed by the National Audit Office.
In the last parliament, HMRC was ordered to achieve a net reduction of 15% on its 2010 resource budget, while the department was also asked to find a further £80m of savings in the current financial year in the run-up to George Osborne's Summer Budget.
Update: The use of a stock photo of HMRC’s Belfast offices in an earlier version of this story has been changed - the image was not meant to imply specific knowledge of any cuts to HMRC Belfast. Thanks to readers for suggesting the change, and apologies to anyone who found it misleading