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Wait times when calling HMRC expected to balloon to over ten minutes as tax deadline looms

Taxpayers looking to speak to HMRC about last minute queries with their tax return face being put on hold for over ten minutes in the run up to the self-assessment deadline on 31st January, says PfP, the specialist insurer.

On 30th January last year – the day before the self-assessment deadline – taxpayers had to wait for up to ten* minutes to speak to an expert at HMRC.

PfP says taxpayers should persevere when trying to speak to HMRC as exasperation over lengthy delays on the phone will not be accepted as an excuse for failing to file a tax return on time.

HMRC receives huge call volumes in the lead up to deadlines and is under particularly acute pressure at peak times, such as over lunch time.

Wait times are shortest after 6pm, however, leaving it this late in the day could be considered a bit of a risk. Between 6pm9pm on 30th January last year, the average wait time was just 17 seconds.

There have been improvements in call wait times since a Parliamentary report in July 2016 revealed that the average call waiting time for one week in October was over half an hour. However, there are concerns that HMRC still does not have the resources to cope with the volume of calls expected both on the day before and the day of tax deadlines.

The overall average call wait time was 3:38 minutes last year.

Kevin Igoe, Managing Director at PfP, says: “The phones at HMRC are likely to go into something like a meltdown today and tomorrow as the self-assessment deadline approaches.” 

“Taxpayers obviously want to get in touch with HMRC when it’s convenient for them but unfortunately this is often at times when they may wait longer than ten minutes.” 

“It is crucial taxpayers don’t just give up even if they have been on hold for a long time.”

“Tax returns can be complex and time consuming and there is the danger that taxpayers will make mistakes on their returns if they can’t get hold of HMRC. Mistakes can lead serious consequences, including financial penalties.”

“As its crackdown continues, HMRC needs to ensure that it provides a workable service to taxpayers who just need advice.”

*Source: HMRC