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HMRC Reduces Helpline Services to Promote Online Services

Published by Chirag
Published Date: March 25, 2024

HMRC is implementing a significant change in its helpline services. It plans to shut down its self-assessment helpline for six months each year, except for handling complex inquiries, and scale back the VAT helpline.

This decision comes after the helpline services were temporarily closed for three months last summer, from July to September. The new measures will come into effect starting 8 April, with no mention of alterations to the agent-dedicated line at present. However, HMRC is monitoring the line's usage and has communicated to agents that calls should be strictly for queries that cannot be resolved online.

Surge in Basic Queries Flood HMRC Helpline Services

Last year, HMRC received over three million calls regarding basic queries that could have been resolved online, such as password resets, tax code inquiries, and National Insurance number searches. Handling these queries amounted to the equivalent of 500 full-time employees devoted solely to answering such calls.

HMRC Reduces Helpline Services

Moving forward, the self-assessment helpline services will be closed between April and September, redirecting customers to use HMRC's online services. The helpline will be operational from October to March to address "priority queries," although the specifics of these inquiries remain unspecified.

Moreover, changes are underway for the VAT helpline, which will now only be open for five days each month leading up to the VAT returns deadline. Outside of these dates, taxpayers will be directed to utilise HMRC's online services. Additionally, the PAYE helpline services will no longer entertain calls from taxpayers regarding refunds.

Criticism Surrounds HMRC's Helpline Services Reductions

While these changes aim to promote online self-service and optimise resource allocation, the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has criticised them. CIOT President Gary Ashford expressed disappointment, emphasising the ongoing demand for human advisers despite the push towards digital assistance.

Despite HMRC's emphasis on online self-service, there remains a strong preference among taxpayers for human interaction when seeking assistance. Until HMRC's digital services undergo substantial improvements, the reliance on human advisers who rely on HMRC's helpline services for comprehensive support is likely to persist.

The decision of HMRC, after having met with a lot of criticism, has now been retracted. You can read about this in our article "HMRC Reverses Controversial Decision to Cut Helpline".

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