HMRC contact line issues continue

HMRC, News, Personal Tax,

HMRC’s contact lines continue to cause frustration for taxpayers ahead of the Self Assessment filing deadline on the 31st January.

Many callers reported problems in contacting HMRC last week, and took to social media in anger. Stories of holding for in excess of an hour to get cut off without speaking to anyone were common, as was holding for several hours. HMRC’s customer support Twitter feed was deluged with complaints.

Average call times have risen from 8 to 14 minutes, according to HMRC’s own data, and the implementation of a flexible working policy has reportedly been the cause. This allows staff to work at home for two days a week, and began at the same time that call waiting times started to increase.

The latest delays come after a four day period in December when phone lines were closed, caused by an IT failure.

An HMRC spokesperson said: ‘Our colleagues work effectively wherever they are, and our customer service staff support customers whether they are working at home or in the office. This is our busiest time of the year and we apologise to those waiting to speak to us. We expect better waiting times for the next couple of weeks before they peak in the week up to the SA deadline. We strongly encourage customers to check online before calling. Many queries can be dealt with much more quickly through your Personal Tax Account or the HMRC app.’

We hope this is the case, given there were 5.7 million people still to file their Tax Returns at the beginning of January, and a good percentage of those may we need to speak to HMRC before they can do so!

The Treasury Committee Chair, Harriett Baldwin MP, has asked HMRC chief Executive Jim Harra in an open letter to explain the poor service from the phone lines.

‘Concerns have been expressed that HMRC’s working from home policy may have led to some of these issues,’ Baldwin wrote.

‘It is of serious concern that taxpayers are apparently unable to reach HMRC by telephone in the run up to the 31 January online self-assessment deadline.’

She has asked for an explanation of the cause of the problems, the steps taken to resolve the issues and the procedures being implemented to prevent a recurrence.

The response has been requested by 23rd January.

HMRC aren’t endearing themselves to anyone with their recent phone issues.

Accountants and advisors were complaining bitterly in the run-up to Christmas after HMRC announced the Agent Dedicated Helpline would only be able to answer ‘complex’ phone enquiries about Self Assessment in January.

Instead, it was recommended that advisors use the same customer contact lines that taxpayers use, where responses times are 14 minutes, but nearly one in five calls in unanswered. These lines aren’t geared up to support accountants as well as taxpayers, and the likely outcome would be chaotic.

HMRC relented during the first week of January, in response to pressure from the industry regulating bodies.

There are also likely to be callers confused by the recent erroneous reminders sent by HMRC, which doesn’t help anyone.

Be Prepared!

If you’re struggling to get through to HMRC, we’ve found that it can be easier to make contact by calling later in the day.

Either way, make sure that you have all of the necessary information to hand when you start trying to get through. You want to ensure that you’re investing the time wisely, and want to avoid needing to call back later!

There are quite a few areas of personal tax records that we don’t have access to, even as agents, but if you’ve been unable to get through, we’re happy to help if we can, so please do get in touch.

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