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Face-to-face tax offices in East Lancashire to close
DROP-IN offices where taxpayers can resolve their queries face-to-face with officials in Accrington, Burnley, Chorley and Nelson will shut next year, it was announced last night.
HM Revenue and Customs will close all of its 281 enquiry centres nationwide which helped 2.5 million people with tax queries last year.
The move will put 1,300 jobs at risk, although it aims to deploy staff elsewhere.
The centres will be replaced by a telephone service and home visits, to save £13m a year.
The four East Lancashire centres are among 35 across the North West to close, including those in Rochdale, Bury, Bolton and Preston.
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, said: “While we wish HMRC success in saving costs and making their brave new world of roving enquiry staff work, we wonder whether the timing of this change will come to haunt them.”
HMRC said that the number of people using the enquiry centres across the UK had halved from five million in 2005-06 to 2.5 million in 2011-12. Each visit cost the service £152 on average when four-out-of-five queries could have been resolved on the telephone or online. There will be a five-month pilot of the new telephone-based service in the north east of England from June.
People will need to contact the phone line or go online to get their tax query answered.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the civil servants’ PCS union, said: “Closing all face-to-face tax offices would break the link between people in communities and an essential public service they rely on.
“If, as we fear, flawed research has been used to justify these closure plans then ministers must put an immediate stop to them.”