Tax inquiry centre to close next month

The Tax Enquiry centre in Morpeth which is due to close in June.
The Tax Enquiry centre in Morpeth which is due to close in June.

A DATE has been set for the closure of Morpeth Tax Office as part of a pilot scheme to save costs.

The inquiry centre in Manchester Street will shut from June 3 to September and it may not re-open as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is looking to provide a new face-to-face service.

Another 12 offices in the North East will also be closed as part of the pilot, where people will need to contact a telephone line or go online to get their tax query answered.

Advisers can decide that it should be discussed face-to-face at the caller’s home or elsewhere, but concerns have been raised by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

There are about 100 staff working in the North-East centres whose jobs would be at risk and it says the closures will put more pressure on HMRC’s contact centres, which already struggle to cope with the current level of calls.

PCS Assistant Group Secretary Alwyn Mason said: “Staff at the North-East inquiry centres are really concerned about their jobs because for most of them, there’s nowhere else to go.

“We’re also concerned about the people who come into the offices, as many of them are vulnerable people who rely on the assistance of staff by talking things through face-to-face.

“Many of them can’t afford the internet or to hold for a long time on the phone before they get to speak to someone.”

The union is collecting petitions and it held a drop-in session at Parliament yesterday to raise awareness of the proposals.

HMRC says that each visit costs £152 on average and four out of five queries could have been solved on the telephone or online.

A spokeswoman for the tax authority said: “Following a consultation period and the outcome of the pilot, a decision will be made as to the future of the offices and how a new face-to-face service could be implemented.”