HMRC texts scheme to reduce call wait times

HMRC, News, Tax,

A new HMRC scheme is to use text messages to reduce wait times on taxpayer query lines. Having experienced increasing issues with service levels, the new scheme launched on the 19th January.

Mobile phone users calling HMRC enquiry lines will receive a text message that includes a link to the relevant information on the HMRC website that will help with their enquiry. Texts will be generated only once the called has completed the automated options list and asked for what HMRC is calling ‘basic information widely available’ on the HMRC site.

HMRC said: ‘We are trialling a new SMS service that will help customers quickly and easily get the information they’re looking for online. The trial comes after improvements to information and access to our digital services and builds on our digital and channel shift ambitions.

‘From 19 January SMSs will be sent to some customers who call our helplines from a mobile phone asking for help with a routine matter that would be better resolved if they used our digital services. 

‘SMSs will automatically be triggered using the customers’ reason for calling and their message will include a direct link to relevant information. The SMS messages will be short and simple, and will not contain any personal or sensitive customer information.  The call will then be disconnected so that customers can follow the link and continue online.’

Callers will be told they will receive the text message, either immediately or shortly after the call. The announcement of the new scheme includes a reminder that HMRC will never ask for personal or financial information when HMRC send text messages. They also stressed that they will never text or email regarding a tax refund, or ask for personal information to enable one to be processed.

There are a range of instances where texts will be sent, as follows:

  • how to find your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR).
  • help registering for HMRC online services.
  • lost or forgotten online service password or user ID.
  • queries on whether they should register for self assessment or still have to complete a tax return. 
  • requests for income and employment history.
  • lost National Insurance number, or a letter confirming their number.

Why you need to be careful!

This new scheme sounds simple. Just call HMRC, receive a text and follow the link to find your answer.

Historically we were able to tell clients ‘HMRC will never text you’ which was far more robust. Next we had text reminders to submit Tax Returns and set up payments, and now we have texts that include links.

Busy taxpayers, or those that are less ‘street savvy’ and more trusting are increasingly at risk.

Whilst we’re all for anything that helps HMRC to improve their diabolical service levels, this scheme feels a little worrying. It may well lead to an increase in the likelihood of taxpayers following links in fraudulent texts received as part of an ever increasing number of scams.

Please, continue to be very careful of clicking on any kind of link in any text, whether from HMRC or not.

There are scams that don’t ask you to provide personal details, as the link uploads spy software to your device, and just waits until you next log into your bank account. At this point, the details are sent back to the scammers and you’re oblivious!

A Reminder…

Any suspicious text messages should be texted to 60599 (network charges apply) or email: then they should be deleted.

If you’re in any way unsure, please get in touch!

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