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HMRC Overtime Ban To Delay Processing Of Tax Returns

by Jason Gorringe,, London

02 March 2007

With more than 80,000 employees of HM Revenue and Customs having started a month-long overtime ban on March 1, the Public and Commercial Services Union has warned that there could be severe delays in the processing of individuals and company tax and VAT returns in the coming weeks.

PCS members working for HMRC voted in favour of the overtime ban in response to previously announced job cuts and sweeping office closures, as the government attempts to trim public expenditure.

HMRC are planning the closure of 200 processing sites as well as a further 12,500 job losses. This comes on top of a drive already aimed at cutting 12,500 jobs. With a total of 25,000 jobs going by 2011, the union has expressed "grave concern" about the ability of the department to function and efficiently collect revenues for the Exchequer.

HMRC claims that the modernisation plans will result in a more efficient and effective service to taxpayers, but the PCSU says that the cuts would exacerbate a mounting backlog of self assessment tax returns, P45s, tax credit repayments and tax codes, and would reduce the quality of service to the public and businesses

Pointing to internal HMRC figures which show a backlog of 1 million items of post across the department, the PCS has previously warned that the department will "not be fit for purpose" within two years if the government goes ahead with the job cuts.

The overtime ban runs until 5 April 2007. The civil service-wide campaign has so far already seen strong support for a one day civil service strike on 31 January, the self assessment deadline day, which was followed by a two week civil service-wide overtime ban, hitting the yearly blitz by magistrates courts to recoup unpaid fines across England and Wales.

Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, stated:

"From strike action and work to rule, through to overtime bans, members have shown that they are resolute in standing up for the services they deliver. Such savage cuts in HMRC will undermine the ability of the department to function and serve only to damage services even further."

He went on to warn that:

"Over the coming weeks further industrial action, including strike action, is highly likely if civil service management and the government continue to bury its head in the sand and fail to address the issues job cuts, services and below inflation pay offers."

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