By Claire West

Responding to last week’s announcement by HM Revenue and Customs that £42 billion in tax was uncollected in 2009/10, general secretary of The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) Mark Serwotka said:

“We have long argued the total amount of uncollected tax is in fact closer to £130 billion, £28 billion of which is made up of taxes which are known to be owed. However, what is clear is that insufficient resources are being dedicated to collecting tax, including that which is being avoided or evaded, largely by very wealthy individuals and organisations."

PCS has previously given evidence to the Treasury select committee, in both 2007 and 2009, expressing concern about the volume of work being stored up by HMRC and which remains to be dealt with.

This includes around one million pieces of post from taxpayers, as well as the 18 million ‘open cases’ which the National Audit Office criticised the department for not dealing with adequately - which led to the current crisis around PAYE under and over payments, exacerbated by the pressure to introduce inadequate computer systems.

More than 40 million calls to HMRC's call centre network went unanswered last year and PCS believes the current PAYE crisis, and the queries from taxpayers this will inevitably generate, will render the service even more vulnerable.
HMRC is currently prepared to write off unpaid tax debts which fall below a £300 threshold. If the department was staffed adequately, it would be able to devote resources to chasing the £2 billion that might be yielded from these debts.