(Bloomberg) -- Almost half of Britain’s tax collectors are failing to meet the government department’s requirement for staff to work from the office three days a week, according to its top official.

Jim Harra, permanent secretary at HM Revenue & Customs, Parliament that just 57% of its 67,500 staff were in the office for at least 60% of their contractual working hours at the end of March. About 5% are not coming into the office at all, he said, although attendance has been improving.

Remote working at HMRC, the third largest government department, has been under the microscope amid mounting complaints about customer service over call waiting times and confusing digital services. Last month, after public outcry, it reversed plans at the last minute to close its tax self-assessment helpline services and direct customers to the website.

Harra told members of Parliament on the Treasury Committee that average peak call waiting times people who want help with their self-assessment tax returns averaged 38 minutes. “It is very regrettable,” he said. However, he said remote working had no impact on service levels.

“There is no difference between the number of calls taken whether a helpline adviser is at home or in the office. We see the same productivity,” Harra said.

HMRC handles tens of millions of calls and letters a year. One reason pressure on the system has been rising is the government’s decision to freeze tax thresholds, which has pushed hundreds of thousands of people into higher rates of tax. Anyone earning over £100,000 ($124,300) must file a self-assessment tax return.

Staff and related costs at HMRC total about £3.2 billion a year, its accounts show.

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