Staff at HM Revenue and Customs already reeling from a damning report on its failure to answer customer calls are being given details of a “devastating” decision to close scores of offices with the loss of jobs.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said the cuts would pose a “significant threat” to the operation of HMRC as well as to the working lives of staff.

The union called for full public and parliamentary scrutiny of the decision.

An official announcement is due later today, but there is speculation that all but a handful of 160 regional offices will close, while a number of new regional centres will open.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “No one should be in any doubt that, if implemented, these proposals would be absolutely devastating for HMRC and the people who work there.

“Closing this many offices would pose a significant threat to the operation of HMRC, its service to the public and the working lives of staff, and the need for parliamentary scrutiny of the plans is undeniable and urgent.”

An HMRC spokesman said: “Today we will inform our staff about the future direction of our estate. We have been clear for some time that this will mean fewer, but larger and more modern offices that will help us to deliver better services to our customers and bring in more tax revenue for public services.

“These changes are part of an ongoing modernisation programme begun several years ago and will take place over the next 10 years.”

Frank Haskew, of chartered accountants’ body the ICAEW, said: “This restructuring will place yet more pressure on an organisation that is not delivering the level of service taxpayers have a right to expect.

“Service standards are deteriorating with taxpayers having to spend longer and longer on the phone trying to get through or waiting for their letters to be answered.

“The UK tax system is already struggling to cope with the demands being placed on it. Our tax code is overly complex and places a significant regulatory and compliance burden particularly on small businesses whose focus should be on contributing to economic growth.

“HMRC should have access to the resources it needs to provide an efficient and effective tax system as this underpins strong tax compliance. We shouldn’t underestimate the disruption that this restructuring will have on HMRC and the distraction it will cause to its leadership as they seek to implement it.

“Given the challenge of improving service standards and closing the tax gap, we are concerned that this is the wrong time to be reorganising, closing offices and cutting staff.”

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