Taxing times in store if enquiry centre is closed

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A CITY tax advisor has warned that the loss of a face-to-face enquiry service at Lancaster Town Hall could hit customers hard.

The centre was opened two years ago when the city’s tax office in Dalton Square was closed amid cuts.

But now it is among 281 tax enquiry centres proposed for closure next spring in another cost-cutting programme.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) plans to replace the centres with a mobile service which it claims will reach more people who need extra help with tax.

But Lesley Vincent, the Lancaster centre’s Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union representative, and one of four tax advisors at the town hall, said she had serious concerns over the proposals.

Ms Vincent, who wrote to oppose the plans as part of the PCS response to a recent consultation, said: “The mobile appointments will only be available to customers classed as vulnerable and needing ‘enhanced support’ – the average Joe will have to go online or use a landline, which can be expensive.

“The worry is that people will not know about the service and a lot of the people we see do not have computers.

“And you can’t use the internet to enquire about your tax code or allowance. People prefer a face-to-face service.”

HMRC, which has vowed to redeploy staff, said customers using the mobile service in locations including people’s homes, libraries and community centres would save £12m a year in travel costs.

The new model is now being piloted in the north east.