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A HMRC staff strike is scheduled to take place later this week, coinciding unfortunately (or fortunately?) with the Tax Credit renewal and Self Assessment deadlines.
Over the next three days, members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) will walk out of their workplaces as protest against the years of job cuts and overwhelming incentives that have left them understaffed and overworked.
The strike will first begin in Wales, Northern England and Scotland, before later taking place across the Midlands, London, the south east, south west and east of England, Yorkshire and Humberside and Northern Ireland by Friday.
Coinciding dangerously with the HMRC’s upcoming deadlines for Self Assessment and Tax Credit renewal, the strike is anticipated to bring disruption and complications to the process.
HMRC said:[quote]We are very disappointed by the timing of the decision by PCS to call a strike to coincide with the tax credits renewals deadline.
It is a great shame that the union is asking HMRC staff to strike, deliberately putting the livelihoods of hard working families at risk to further an industrial dispute.”[/quote]
But the staff of HMRC tell a different story, with reports of mass job cuts combined with strenuous expectations making it almost impossible to keep up with institutional demand. ARC, the union for HMRC workers, claim that the job cuts are self-defeating, as investing £312 in staff raises £8 billion in tax.
Meanwhile, strike co-ordinators PCS describe the significant impact of low resources and inadequate funding on the coherence of the UK tax system. With so few staff around to check suspect cases, 90% of tax is effectively paid voluntarily, and HMRC are often driven to writing off cases simply to get through their never-ending workload.
Whilst HMRC claims that the PCS’s strike will cause inconvenience and hardship for tax paying citizens, this may not be quite true. Figures show that every day, backlogs of letters to the HMRC go unanswered, and thousands of frustrated customers are kept waiting on phones due to 281 frontline offices now being closed.
Mark Serwotka, PCS’s general secretary, said:[quote]HMRC plays an essential role in our economy and our society, collecting the taxes that fund the public services we all rely on. But it is being systematically undermined by unnecessary and politically-motivated cuts.
These strikes demonstrate that we are serious about stopping these damaging cuts and making a positive case for proper investment in this crucial department.”[/quote]
HMRC claims it will do”everything it can” to”minimise the impact on tax credit claimants, and urges them to renew online rather than over the phone to avoid long delays that the strike could cause.