Dozens of workers face an uncertain future after it was announced that the Lynn tax office is set to close.
The move is part of a nationwide plan to close all 281 of HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) enquiry centres and replace them with a new, flexible service which officials claim will save tens of millions of pounds a year.
But union leaders say the plan is flawed and will create more problems than it solves.
Speculation about the future of the Lynn tax office at Vancouver House in County Court Road, grew in November, when HMRC announced that all 81 personal tax staff based there had been offered what it described as a “voluntary exit” from the organisation.
It is not known how many workers took up that offer or will be affected by the closure plan. Officials have so far only stated that talks with the unions are continuing.
But they maintain that a new flexible support service, which is being rolled out across the country in May following a pilot scheme in the north-east, will still enable people to seek the help they need.
The programme allows for staff to either deal with people’s queries over the phone or to meet with them at a time and place that suits them.
Ruth Owen, HMRC’s deputy director for personal tax, said: “Our enquiry centres offer a great service to those who can reach them.
“But they are spread unevenly across the UK, the number of people using them continues to fall, and our research shows that the majority of customers who do use them don’t actually need to.
“The new service will enable us to tailor help in a way that works better and is more affordable.”
HMRC claims that the number of people using tax offices has halved since 2006, and the new system could save more than £40 million a year following the closure of the offices and in lost time and travel costs. However, despite a request by the Lynn News, they have not provided specific figures relating to the use of the Lynn office.
And leaders of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union argue that HMRC have over-estimated the potential savings brought about by the scheme.
Branch secretary Paul West said: “The impact on migrant workers in particular will be huge, as they make up one quarter of all users and often have complex tax queries.
“The closures will also lead to more taxpayers with the wrong tax code and families getting into financial difficulties because they were not getting information about their tax credits.”