HM Revenue & Customs has announced an innovative new programme to help up to three million customers renew their tax credits. The customer-focused service provided by Amazon Alexa is specifically aimed at those seeking help through the tax credits renewal process – one that can be hectic and easily forgotten during the furore of day-to-day life.
This is but one of a number of additions to HMRC’s growing online services and another prime example of technology being used as a tool to simplify and improve our lives.
“Alexa! Open HMRC”
The new service by HMRC allows customers with Alexa-enabled devices to ask to “open HMRC”. This then provides the customer with help and information for a potential change of circumstances, payment information, or a renewal.
The tax office, however, insists that the service is purely customer service-focused and no personal information is stored on Alexa. Additionally, it said that customers cannot renew their tax credits using the Alexa service.
This addition is one part of HMRC’s ever-growing online services. Customers are also now able to use the HMRC App on their smartphone to perform a number of actions, including:
- Renew their tax credits
- Check their tax credits payments schedule
- Find out how much they have earned for the year
Tax credits help working families across the UK through targeted support. At least 65,000 customers have already used smartphone apps to renew their tax credits this year, which marks a significant increase compared to the 38,000 customer who used the service in 2017.
Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, believes the addition of Alexa will enable customers to access vital support during what can be a hectic process.
She said: “We know our customer have hectic lives – full of interruptions and distractions – which is why HMRC’s online services are available at all times of the day and night.
“Alexa can help customers find out about what to do when they receive a renewal pack, how to change their circumstances, or how to find out about payment information.”
Adapting to Change
As times and technology change, HMRC has introduced a number of innovative new methods to keep up with a rapidly shifting tech environment. A major issue facing the service is tax avoidance. To counter this, HMRC has introduced groundbreaking technology to take the fight to tax dodgers.
Recently, it reported that the number of property raids carried out had fallen by 30% in the space of a year. HMRC officers raided 471 properties in the 12 months to April, compared with 669 a year earlier.
This decrease has been attributed to the increased use of artificial intelligence and the expansion of the service’s “Connect” computer programme.
Launched eight years ago, Connect can power its way through enormous quantities of data. Algorithms are able to identify inconsistent data submitted by individuals through cross-referencing information from the Land Registry as well as credit card statements and overseas accounts.
If you’re planning on dodging your taxes, we would recommend not asking Alexa to remind you…