HMRC – “The line is currently busy at the moment, please leave a message at the tone”

First published on 23 May 2024 by Alastair
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  • HMRC
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Currently you have a one in three chance of hearing this message when you call HMRC. This is not only the case for taxpayers but for advisers too. In fact, on the morning I wrote this, my colleagues called HMRC three times – and were hung up on each time.

  1. 800 years of waiting

The National Audit Office has clearly identified just what this means for the average person, with a recent, excoriating report noting that taxpayers were left on hold for seven million hours in 2023-24 – the equivalent of 798 years and more than double the 3.2 million hours (only 365 years!) they spent waiting for HMRC to pick up the phone in 2019-20.

Action this day?

For once it looks like action could be taken to address this issue. An additional £51,000,000 (AKA £51M) will be provided by the government to help HMRC improve the answering of its phone lines to an expected level.  But what level is expected, I hear you ask? The answer: an 85% answer rate.

Whilst this would be a major improvement from the current appalling situation, it will still mean that, at a minimum, there would be a 15% chance that a call to the dedicated phone lines that are supposed to support advisers and taxpayers would not be answered.

The additional budget also pales in comparison to the funding that HMRC already has been given for the 24/25 tax year.  This is a staggering £5,200,000,000 (AKA £5.2 billion).  At the start of the current parliamentary term (i.e. 2019) this figure was £4,300,000 (AKA £4.3 billion) and thus this year’s sum represents an increase of almost 21% in five years.

Are immediate improvements to be expected?

“No” is the short answer according to Caroline Miskin, senior technical manager for digital taxation at the Institute of Chartered Accountancy for England and Wales.  She said, “Given the need to find and train up staff there will be a lag before any improvements are seen, so any boost to HMRC service from this funding is unlikely to be seen until the Autumn and service levels may drop in the meantime”.

Something to look forward to….

Callum McKinnon, M&S Accountancy and Taxation

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