HMRC urged to step up automated data collection

National Audit Office report says some of department’s data collection is ‘time consuming and resource intensive’

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) should look towards developing
more automated and cost-effective ways of collecting data about its
business, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) review into the
department’s “indicators” and operational data systems.

The review, carried out over five months to February 2012, found that
some manual data collection is time consuming and resource intensive.
There is a risk that with continuing headcount reductions, it may be
difficult to maintain its current systems.

It gives the example of the length of time needed to deal with data about
postal enquiries, which is collected manually by examining a sample of
post received.

“An automated logging system could be a more cost-effective way of
measuring the length of time taken to deal with post,” the document
says.

“[HMRC] should also consider whether it is necessary to collect all the
data it currently collects… or whether it would be more cost-effective to
focus on a reduced number of key measures, such as those which are
most business-critical or liable to fluctuations in performance.”

According to the NAO, there are some areas where performance
information could be improved to give better insight into how the
department is performing in “priority areas” and making progress with the
challenges it faces.

In particular, HMRC aims to improve efficiency, but its published
indicators measuring the unit costs of tax collection and benefits
administration are not affected by efficiency alone, the report says. The
unit cost indicators are affected by other factors, such as tax rates and
economic conditions, which may make comparisons over time misleading.

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