UNION chiefs have criticised plans to close all walk-in tax offices in the North-East and North Yorkshire.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) announced today (Wednesday, February 12) that all 281 of its walk-in centres across the country will close in May - saying that only a small minority of its 40 million customers uses them.

The plan will see the closure of tax offices in Darlington, Durham, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Stockton, Sunderland, Bishop Auckland, York, Harrogate and Ripon.

The closures will see walk-in tax offices replaced with an advice service, following a seven-month trial in the North-East.

Advisors will offer help over the phone or at a range of ‘convenient locations’, said HMRC.

It insists there will be no compulsory job losses, instead saying staff can choose to work in the new service, take up other jobs in the organisation or apply for voluntary redundancy.

Ruth Owen, HMRC’s director general for personal tax, said: “HMRC is dedicated to providing help to customers when they need it.

“The pilot showed that this is a valuable service for those who cannot get the help they need elsewhere.’”

But the Public and Commercial Services union criticised the plans.

It argued that millions of pensioners, vulnerable workers and tax credit claimants will lose out as a result of the plans.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘HMRC has failed to make the case for closing these offices that provide a lifeline for vulnerable taxpayers.

“These closures seriously undermine the Government’s claim it wants to ensure people pay their taxes, and it makes no economic sense to continue cutting jobs from the very department that collects the revenue that funds the public services we all rely on.”