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HMRC customer service ‘unacceptable’

Only 50% of calls answered in first half of 2015

lady on telephone

HMRC has been criticised for failing to answer more than half of the telephone calls it received during the first six months of 2015.  

In a report conducted by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee, it was suggested that HMRC’s ‘unacceptable’ customer service could be having an adverse impact on the collection of tax revenues.   

HMRC call centre performance worsens

HMRC’s call handling record was severely criticised in the report. 

It suggested; 

  • Only 72.5% of calls were answered in 2014-15
  • This fell to 50% over first half of 2015  
  • Of the calls that did get through, only 39% were answered within five minutes 

The report added: ‘HMRC did not provide us with any indication of when or by how much its customer service would improve, beyond a vague aim to improve year-on-year. We are concerned that customer service levels are so bad that they are having an adverse impact on the collection of tax revenues.’

Useful tool: The Which? Tax calculator is a free-to-use tool which allows you to check your likely tax bill for 2014-15 before submitting figures to HMRC. It comes with extensive help notes, which ensure you claim for full allowances and tax reliefs. 

Which? exposes HMRC call centre delays 

Which? conducted an investigation into HMRC call handing in January 2015. We made 100 calls to the helplines for self-assessment and for general queries, and timed how long it took to get through.

The longest wait was 41 minutes and the average 18 minutes. Shockingly, 29% of our calls were cut off before we got through.  

An online poll we conducted between May and August 2015 was even more damning.  We asked 3,922 members of the general public to tell us how long they’d spend on hold to HMRC, with 28% of respondents claiming they waited for over an hour. A further 30% waited between 46 and 60 minutes, while 24% waited between 31 and 45 minutes.   

How Which? can help taxpayers

While many tax queries necessitate talking to HMRC, it’s possible to check the basic rates and rules with Which? online guides. 

For those who need to complete a self-assessment tax return, the Which? tax calculator is an essential aid. 

Which? members can also get a personalised answer to their tax query by calling our experts on the Which? Money Helpline

If you’re not a Which? member, and you’d like to get unlimited access to our Money Helpline experts, you can try Which? Money for two months for £1.

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