/ Money

Have HMRC helplines left you hanging on?

It’s true that Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs gets a lot of calls (60m a year) but, even so, our findings paint a less than flattering picture. Have you been left hanging on the phone by HMRC?

We made 100 calls to HMRC’s self-assessment and general enquiries helplines to see how easy it is to get through to an adviser. Nearly a third of our calls were cut off because the switchboard was ‘too busy’.

When we did get through, the average time we had to wait to speak to an adviser was 18 minutes. On one call we were left waiting for 41 minutes.

Getting through to HMRC

The irony is that HMRC can be very helpful when you do get through. I’ve always found them knowledgeable and pleasant to deal with – so I keep holding on in the hope of getting through.

Understanding tax isn’t always easy, which is why being able to make contact is so important. All the more so as the self-assessment deadline on 31 January approaches.

I’ve also had trouble writing to HMRC. I tried this summer and was told to wait for five weeks before calling, since it took them that long to open the post! Sending an email might have been quicker, but you can only do that if you’re changing your address or querying your tax code. All other queries have to be by phone or post.

HMRC call waiting times

To be fair, HMRC do acknowledge its shortcomings and have assured us that it is ‘working hard to improve the service we provide’. The target it’s working towards is only 80% however, so that still means that a fifth of all callers could struggle to get through.

Phoning in the morning seems to work best. HMRC admits this on its website, advising callers that, ‘phone lines are less busy before 10am, Monday to Friday’. Our research confirmed this is the case, with more calls cut off in the afternoon and the time spent waiting rising steadily throughout the day.

We all have to pay tax, so we’re all HMRC ‘customers’. Getting through to them shouldn’t be such a lottery, or mean you’ve got to phone before you’ve had your breakfast. We want to see HMRC doing more to monitor and improve its call waiting times. To this end, we’ve shared our investigation with the Treasury and HMRC and have also briefed the Public Accounts Committee.

How have you found dealing with HMRC? Have you had trouble getting through to them on the phone? Tell us how long you’ve been kept on hold?

How long has HMRC kept you hanging on the line?

31-45 minutes (26%, 2,269 Votes)

46-60 minutes (26%, 2,242 Votes)

More than 60 minutes (24%, 2,030 Votes)

21-30 minutes (15%, 1,302 Votes)

11-20 minutes (6%, 475 Votes)

6-10 minutes (2%, 178 Votes)

Up to 5 minutes (2%, 133 Votes)

Total Voters: 8,629

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Karen says:
31 July 2015

This so called public service is an absolute joke! I have tried so many times to get through and have NEVER succeeded yet!!!!! We pay for this service and we then have to pay to try and speak to somebody. Come on HMRC get your act together. I do not know of any other company that has such shameful, poor customer service as yours. Anybody else would have gone out of business with statistics like yours

Martin says:
3 August 2015

Following a recent pension download I wrote 5 weeks ago to claim my 40% tax that was paid, back. It took 48 mins for the HMRC to answer the phone.
I was told (after a very good security check) My form had not been put on their system as arrived, I told him it was sent 6 weeks ago and was informed that they have a 9 week waiting time in the post room ? But as I had called he will get their specialist team to process my request and it will be done by the 24th August or they would call me for more info. if needed. That they cannot tell me how much I will get over the phone, as this can change ?

If this so called government keeps putting more work into their departments they should give them more money to do a better job, not less.

They are a disgrace and a bunch of liars.

Simon says:
3 August 2015

I was expecting a long depressing wait after reading through this thread of bleakness and woe, but was pleasantly surprised.

I called the 0300 300 310 number and got the automated question service 🙁

My query was about pension tax relief, and after telling it that and speaking some security details it said I would be put through to the right department. Phone ring tone heard and within seconds I was talking to a helpful advisor who sorted out all my queries.

Amazingly good efficient service.

Note: I rang at 11:30am on a Monday and the recorded message was saying an average wait time of 20 minutes. But I was put straight through after going through the security questions. Maybe I just got very lucky and picked a quiet department?

Nikesh says:
3 August 2015

Awful service!!!! Been waiting over 60min and still waiting can’t they employ more people to answer their calls what next are they gonna have call centres in india!!!!??? Shameful hmrc sucks!!!!

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Karen says:
4 August 2015

I had a letter from a company called Concentric working on behalf of HMRC asking for all ofy wage slips within 3 weeks. I rang initially and got through after 15 minutes . The second time I was kept on hold for over an hour on a mobile phone, I had to cut the call in the end as I was fearful of the cost. Sure enough just had my bill and is £50 more than my contract which I have never gone over before. I had a letter from RC two weeks later and my tax credits were not stopped or wrong but I am furious at the cost and worry it caused me.

Aiba says:
5 August 2015

Today I’ve been on hold for 32 mins. On two previous occasions, I was cut off. This after enduring the exceedingly annoying first phase of the call, where you’re put in charge of an automated service. When my call was finally answered the person on the line was helpful and knowledgeable. But that does not undo the frustration generated previously.

Doug says:
5 August 2015

First call – on hold for 27 minutes. The call automatically disconnected.
Second call – on hold for >40 minutes. Gave up.

This is totally unacceptable. Have written to my MP about it as I don’t know where else to turn!

27 mins of listening to inane music repeated frequently with “we will connect you with an advisor as soon as possible” or some such unhelpful comment. At least an “advisor” did finally answer and my query was sorted.
Why don’t we have an account with HMRC that will let us send secure emails, like I can to my bank. My query was not urgent and an email response, even if it took 2 weeks, would have done the job. No point in writing because they have a backlog. On second thoughts, they’d probably have an ebacklog as well. Back to getting properly organised like most businesses are, I suppose.

Mark Routledge says:
6 August 2015

Just coming up to the hour mark now, still waiting to talk to someone, unbelievable !!

J Singh says:
12 August 2015

They cut me off after keeping me on hold for 15 minutes!!!!!!!!!

Trying again now. Disgusting service

Jonathan says:
13 August 2015

Just been told they cannot take my call right now after waiting 45 minites on hold. Third time ive rang in the past week with the same consequence. Wasted about two hours of my life. F the hmrc

I have been trying to tell HMRC that for the second year in a row they have refunded me £20+ I am not entitled to – couldn’t get through last year and this year looks like mission impossible too. I shall again cash their cheque and leave them to discover their mistake, which is not based on any information I have given them. If they ever do.

Denise stanley says:
19 August 2015

Now holding on time is 24 minutes, and been told this morning 8 weeks to open a letter, just what is this service supposed to be doing, I think the managers need to really investigate this appalling service. Yet if you owe them they are on your doorstep within weeks !!!!!!!!!!!!

katie says:
19 August 2015

Just gave up, no idea why HMRC have to give a silly long verbage about looking at stuff online when I want to speak to a human being, it just gets me more angry. I hung up after 25mins.
I then decided to ring the Agents dedicated line which is 0300 200 3311, the phone there was answered straight away, but the person refused to help as I was not an agent, this person was unhelpful in the extreme. I asked to speak to a supervisor, was told they were on their lunch break – this was 4.15pm in the afternoon.
If the agents line staff were not busy – why could they not be redirected to answer calls from the general public. I was told the supervisor would ring back within 24 hours.
I have spoken to some very helpful people in HMRC over the years but some of those dealing with self assessment are really bad. They just do not understand how angry people are over the time and costs of wasted phone calls.
It is a total rip off that we have to pay, these calls should be Freephone, we pay our taxes, why should we be taxed again via expensive phone calls – they should be free or only allowed to charge a maximum of £1. This may get them to answer the phone quicker.

Geoffrey Hall says:
20 August 2015

I received a P800 tax calculation which had errors. The only contact for errors was 03002003300 (phone). I called 12 times and always got a message saying that the wait was likely to bo 35 mins. I emailed my MP and she passed it to the head of the HMRC. I have heard nothing since.

Geoffrey Hall says:
25 August 2015

Just to say that HMRC have now resolved my problem. Proving that it is worth emailing your MP.

Jean says:
22 August 2015

First time I phoned told they were too busy to speak and I was cut off without speaking to a human being. I phoned on Thursday and was kept awaiting for exactly one hour. A disgrace.

Peter Bonza says:
26 August 2015

The whole customer service on phone is bad joke been calling them 4 days non stop to get through.
No luck waiting time 60 and more mints make me feel mad. They want you to pay money and be a honest taxpayer on the other hand they cant even pick up the phone.
No options to contact them via email.
If I would be running business like them I could close down next day.
I think calling them from my balcony would give me a better chance then using this holly crap 0300

Still waiting says:
26 August 2015

I hour and 3 minutes and still waiting ( I won’t give up)

Paul says:
26 August 2015

Waiting over an hour this is shocking service.

Utter Crap! says:
28 August 2015

Been on hold for over 60 mins…..is there ANYONE is that flipping office or are they just sat around having a cup of coffee…….shocking service!