62% of senior staff at HMRC over 50 years old

HMRC has been warned about its ageing workforce with 61.5% of senior civil servants at the tax authority being over 50 years old, compared to 55% being under 40 at the Treasury, with digital skills lacking at HMRC due to its age profile

The Institute for Government’s Whitehall Monitor 2018 report highlights the lack of younger civil servants at HMRC, showing it to be one of the departments with the highest age profile, coming second to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

HMRC along with the MoD, Department for Work and Pensions and Ministry of Justice, make up the larger departments in Whitehall. These departments all have a higher average employee age which in turn is driving the overall civil service age profile up. According to HMRC, the average age of its employees is 45.

The report shows that 62% of senior civil servants at MoD and 61.5% at HMRC are over the age of 50, while 55% of senior civil servants in the Treasury are under 40. The department for exiting the European Union had no permanent senior civil servants above the age of 50 in March 2017.

By HMRC having an older workforce it lacks critical digital skills needed for major transformation programmes such as Making Tax Digital. Other skills and knowledge are also being lost from the tax authority as people retire. However, the downsides of hiring younger staff include lack of experience and a higher staff turnover rate. The department for exiting the European Union staff turnover is 9% per quarter compared to HMRC’s average of 9% per year.

The median age of civil servants is now 46, up from 44 in 2010 and 40% of all civil servants are over the age of 50, up from 32% in 2010. The percentage under the age of 30 is 12% down from 14% in 2010. The reason for this ageing workforce is younger civil servants not being recruited to replace the jobs lost as overall staff numbers were cut from 2010.

On a positive note women have made up more than half of all civil servants since 2001 and in 2017, 41% of senior civil servants (and those at equivalent grades) were women, the highest-ever level.

Despite the percentage of women also increasing in more senior roles, they are still underrepresented at the most senior levels. Women outnumber men in the junior roles but the percentage declines with every step up in job grade.

Only five departments are currently led by female permanent secretaries.


Of all departments on using the central government information website, www.gov.uk, HMRC and its associated pages were the most viewed with 378 million views in 2017, reaching 10.7m in its busiest week. Department for Work and Pensions was the second most viewed at 12.5m.

The department for exiting the European Union was the least viewed department at 1.7m.

At the close of 2017 there were over 107,000 publications on www.gov.uk, of which nearly a fifth were published that year. The department with the greatest all-time number of publications is HMRC with over 6,000 publications.

In 2017 a third of publications related to policy or guidance, just over a quarter to research and statistics, and nearly a fifth to corporate responsibilities which includes Freedom of Information (FoI) releases and transparency data. The publication of consultations only made up 4% of the total items.

An HMRC spokesperson said: 'Many of our senior staff have been with the department for a long time and have a wealth of experience and expertise. We ensure that all of our staff are equipped with the skills to ensure HMRC becomes one of the most digitally-advanced tax authorities in the world.'

The Institute for Government: Whitehall Monitor 2018 is here. 

Report by Amy Austin

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