Extra £600m needed to pay for taxman’s new offices
“Britain’s tax authorities will spend nearly £600 million more than they promised on an “unrealistic” plan to modernise and streamline their offices, a critical report has concluded.
The National Audit Office (NAO) found that Revenue & Customs was operating out of 170 properties, costing £269 million a year to run. But it warned that the cost of plans to modernise and rationalise into 13 regional centres had been significantly underestimated and said that the reorganisation would disrupt services.
Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the public accounts committee, said the NAO’s findings showed that “early over-optimism” had once again resulted in increased costs to taxpayers. The committee is expected to call HMRC officials to explain how the forecasts were so wrong.
The NAO said that since HMRC first announced its relocation plans in the 2015 spending review, costs had risen and the project would now cost £594 million more over the next decade — a rise of about 22 per cent.
The organisation had also accepted that its current plans, that would involve moving all staff into new offices by 2020, carried “too high a risk of disruption to its business”.
An updated plan is yet to be published and relocating to regional centres will now happen later than the HMRC had planned.
It will take longer before savings from the new estate are realised, the NAO said.
An HMRC spokesman said: “Our most recent calculations now include updated day-to-day running costs, additional investment in two transitional sites which will ease the move for both staff and customers, and provision for more support for our staff with the travel costs of moving to a new office.”
Source” Times Newspapers Limited 2017 (paywall)