The UK’s tax and customs authority HM Revenues & Customs (HMRC) announced on Thursday that it plans to open 13 new regional centres equipped with new digital technology and training facilities, as the next step in its ten-year modernisation programme.
HMRC said that over the next five years there will be fewer, more modern regional centres, but better services will be provided by its highly skilled staff in every region in the UK. Most of the tax authority’s staff are expected to be able to move from their current offices to a new regional centre, with these moves being phased out over ten years in order to minimise redundancies. HMRC added that it intends to employ fewer people in the future as it streamlines how it works and uses the best of modern technology to reduce costs. New regional centres will be opened in 2016-17, with others following between 2017 and 2021. HMRC expects to generate estate savings of £100m a year by 2025.
According to HMRC, the 13 new regional centres will be in: North East (Newcastle); North West (Manchester and Liverpool); Yorkshire and the Humber (Leeds); East Midlands (Nottingham); West Midlands (Birmingham); Wales (Cardiff); Northern Ireland (Belfast); Scotland (Glasgow and Edinburgh); South West (Bristol); and London, South East and East of England (Stratford and Croydon).
In addition, HMRC stated that it will have four specialist sites for work that cannot be done elsewhere, in particular where HMRC needs to work with its IT suppliers or other government agencies or departments. These sites will be in Telford, Worthing, Dover and at the Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh.
Under the modernisation programme, which is currently at the halfway point, HMRC is investing in new online services, data analytics, new compliance techniques, new skills and new ways of working. The changes are expected to make it easier for the honest majority of customers to pay their tax, as well as making it more difficult for the dishonest minority to cheat the system. Already, more than 80% of people filing their Self Assessment returns online and the programme provided customers with new, simple ways to check their payments, make changes or find answers to questions.
HMRC said it raised a record £517bn for public services last year. Its 58,000 full-time equivalent employees are currently spread across 170 offices around the UK, many of which were built in the 1960s and 1970s and range in size from around 6,000 people to fewer than ten.
Lin Homer, chief executive of HMRC, stated: “HMRC is committed to modern, regional centres serving every region and nation in the UK, with skilled and varied jobs and development opportunities, while also ensuring jobs are spread throughout the UK and not concentrated in the capital.
“HMRC has too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices. This makes it difficult for us to collaborate, modernise our ways of working, and make the changes we need to transform our service to customers and clamp down further on the minority who try to cheat the system.
“The new regional centres will bring our staff together in more modern and cost-effective buildings in areas with lower rents. They will also make a big contribution to the cities where they are based, providing high-quality, skilled jobs and supporting the Government’s commitment for a national recovery that benefits all parts of the UK.
“The changes will enable HMRC to give customers the modern services they now expect at a lower cost to the taxpayer, meeting the Government’s challenge for all departments to do more with less.”