Tax needn’t be taxing, according to the television adverts for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Service.
But it could be more difficult if plans to close nearly 300 walk-in tax advice offices and endanger 1,300 jobs go ahead.
The north east has also been chosen as a guinea pig to test whether face-to-face services through the enquiry centre network can be replaced by a ‘tailored’ telephone service. People would phone a contact centre which vets them before referring to another adviser.
Mobile teams could meet people in local libraries.
The Public and Commercial Services union, whose members are affected, has serious concerns.
It fears the experiment won’t be based on sound evidence because our region has fewer people with particular problems than nation-wide.
It says the economic case has been exaggerated. It will cost more than it saves as it could reduce the tax take.
It could impact badly on pensioners, people on low incomes, migrant workers and disabled people. More taxpayers could get lumbered with the wrong tax code and face financial difficulties.
Many people who rely on face-to-face advice may struggle with or avoid using internet and telephone services.
I will monitor the north east scheme before the debate about whether it should be extended nation-wide.
Some people need direct help to pay correct taxes. I wish multinational companies did that and reduced the need for public spending cuts.