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Slow response times at HMRC leads to 3.8m taxpayers hanging up and not calling back

PfP warns that if individuals do hang up before speaking to a HMRC adviser then they may be more likely to make mistakes when they file their tax returns. Mistakes on tax returns act as a red flag to HMRC and could lead to unnecessary investigations and even penalties. The average length of time taxpayers wait when calling HMRC, before they are put through to an adviser, increased 39% last year* to 06:29 minutes, from 04:52 minutes the year before.

Some taxpayers were forced to wait even longer, with 28.6% holding for more than ten minutes* last year, up from 17.3% the previous year. PfP adds that HMRC’s resources have been under increased pressure in the last year with planning for Brexit and the roll out of Making Tax Digital. The demand for extra staff in other departments at HMRC may have contributed to the deterioration in call wait times.  

 Kevin Igoe, Managing Director at PfP, says: “Waiting on hold can be incredibly frustrating and adds to the already complicated process of tax returns. Taxpayers should try and be patient when calling HMRC to ensure they get all the information required. Mistakes can easily lead to investigations, which can take months or even years to resolve and cause huge amounts of stress. For individuals and small businesses, who may not have ready access to tax advisers, delays in getting queries dealt with can be particularly problematic. Better to seek professional advice rather than make a mistake. HMRC has plenty of funding for its compliance work but this latest performance data shows that perhaps more is needed for its customer service function.”

 Wait times are particularly bad during busy periods when HMRC receives a higher volume of calls such as the January 31 online self-assessment (SA) tax deadline. Other tax deadlines include October 31 SA paper deadline and October 5 deadline to register for SA for the next tax year. HMRC will not accept long wait times as an excuse for any delays or errors when filing tax returns. 39% rise in wait times for calls to HMRC last year – now over six minutes. Call wait times have risen for the last three consecutive years.