A decision by the Revenue Commissioners to permanently close its public enquiry office in Anne Street, has led to widespread anger and confusion among customers in Wexford.
The drop-in service which people have enjoyed for decades, was withdrawn on June 26 and anyone who now wishes to speak to a member of staff must make an appointment by telephone, although most callers are being advised to go online to access services.
Despite Revenue officials saying the permanent closure of the public office was 'flagged locally' through office notices and advertisments on the Revenue website most people calling to the Anne Street premises are unaware of the move and are caught by surprise.
'I'm flabbergasted really. It's the first I heard of it. I didn't know about this at all. I would only ever have called about once a year. It's thrown a bit of a spanner in the works. I don't really know the process of what to do now,' said Wexfordman Tony Thompson who arrived on Monday morning to enquire about a P60.
Enniscorthyman Michael Murphy who called in the hope of discussing his tax affairs with a staff member, said:'I think it's ridiculous. It's a real dictatorship. What are people who have no knowledge of computers or the internet going to do. I'm not that internet-savvy myself. It's not right. It's against people's civil rights to deny them access to help with their taxes, especially when it involves their livelihoods'.
Daniel Hyland of Wexford called it 'a joke' and said while he is not great with computers, he is young and has some knowledge but he doesn't know how elderly people are going to get on.
'I came here three months ago and it was so busy that the security guard took my P60 off me and said he would pass it on. I still haven't had any word back. I came here today to see what has happened to it. I may try and sort it out online now'.
Wexford resident Mary Bridges confessed to being 'confused' because when she 'googled' the Revenue office in Wexford, she was informed that the Anne Street office is open to the public until 1pm every day.
The closure of the public office in Wexford came to light for the first time last November with Revenue officials revealing the office was to be refurbished to include a public area incorporating telephones and online contact points for customers to use with staff on hand to assist them, and an appointment service available for people to speak directly to a member of staff.
However, the self-service foyer plan was scrapped and the public office was closed completely in a move which Fianna Fail TD James Browne has described as 'unfair and unreasonable'. He promised to raise the issue with the Minister for Finance.
A Revenue spokeswoman said in the first week of the new service, 63 customers contacted the appointment line and of these 60 were able to complete their business without the need to visit the office.
Appointment times were agreed with the remaining three customers who did not have to spend time in a queue for service, said the spokeswoman, adding: 'The new appointments service is subject to ongoing close monitoring and review'.
The Revenue representative said the option of providing a public area with telephones and computers was under consideration last November but 'this was not an element of the final plan'.
'Revenue is engaged in expanding and developing online services, to facilitate customers in managing their tax affairs online. This is in response to the changing expectations of our customers, the need to minimise costs for Revenue and our customers and to ensure we continue to provide a high quality, efficient value-for-money service.'
'While there is still a key role for traditional services,these new online services give customers the choice and convenience of contacting us whatever time is most suitable to them and without the need to queue for service'.