HMRC leader: ‘We have an ambitious digitisation agenda – and we need to stay on course’
Deputy chief executive reflects on the department’s operations in an ‘ever-more connected world where money can move across continents in minutes’
Angela MacDonald, deputy chief executive and second permanent secretary of HM Revenue and Customs, discusses the department’s plans for transformation in the year ahead.
What has been your highlight of the last 12 months?
It’s been quite a year for the department and there’s plenty to look back at and reflect on.
At an individual level, two things really stand out for me. I represented the UK at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Forum on Tax Administration summit in Australia in September, which was a great opportunity to talk with my peers from around the world. We have many common challenges in an ever more connected world where money can move across continents in minutes, and I was proud of how advanced we are in so many respects. There was a real interest in what we are doing from agencies around the world.
Closer to home, I had the great honour and privilege of representing the department at the funeral of the Queen in Westminster Abbey, an extraordinary event to mark a remarkable life of public service and devotion – something which resonates for all civil servants.
More broadly, looking back on the whole of 2022, HMRC has focused on the consolidation and return to our core business. That’s very importantly tax collection, compliance and paying out benefits. But we’ve also had some high-profile legal cases and wins, including the capture and extradition of Britain’s ‘most wanted woman’ Sarah Panitzke after years on the run from justice.
HMRC continues to pursue an active change portfolio and we have continued to show the same flexibility and adaptability we did during 2020 and 2021 in meeting the needs and expectations of ministers. While recent times have brought us more than the usual level of change, we have maintained a stability and certainty throughout in the best traditions of a dedicated and hard-working public service. I’m very proud to be a part of HMRC.
What was your most difficult decision in 2022?
It’s my role in HMRC to make difficult decisions so it’s hard to pick just one. Delivering legally and effectively, and keeping in balance the needs of our ministers, our customers and our colleagues requires active and constant work.
What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation in 2023, and how are you preparing to meet that challenge as an organisation?
We have an ambitious transformation and digitisation agenda which we need to stay on course if we are to realise our ambition to be an efficient modern and trusted tax and customs authority. For example, are readers aware of and using the HMRC app? How can we drive more of our customers towards using modern, digital channels rather than picking up the telephone or writing to us? In parallel, we are facing an economically difficult time where businesses and individuals need a lot of help. Effective government is underpinned by an effective tax administration system because it’s what pays for services. This is a responsibility that all HMRC leaders understand.
And personally, as a leader?
It’s doing all of this with honesty and integrity. How do I lead positively and constructively through the hopes and fears people have right now? It’s going to take careful and compassionate leadership and close attention to detail to what our customers – and colleagues – are telling us, and how we respond.
It's not only Santa who has to work at Christmas. What is your best, worst or weirdest experience of working in the festive season?
I’m always grateful to the colleagues who work over Christmas and there is usually a bit of festive cheer in the offices. For me, in the dim and distant past there were always Christmas parties, but my aged brain has ‘conveniently’ wiped out the details!
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