/ 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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Angry says:
29 August 2015

Absolute rubbish, tried three times yesterday just to be cut off. I have already rung today to be put through to the dreaded music, after holding on for an hour I was told “sorry we cannot answer your call at the moment, Goodbye” and the line goes dead! Seriously I am now on my second attempt and have been on hold for 25 minutes so far. No doubt when I hit the magic hour of listening to music, I will be cut off again. Awful service, why keep people holding on for an hour and then say they can’t answer the call? Also why no email service, in this day and age people are far too busy to waste that amount of time hanging on the phone, especially to be cut off before ven speaking to anyone!,

A very frustrated Jill says:
7 September 2015

i absolutely agree, I have tried on several occasions over the last week at different times of day and exactly the same happens to me – I hang on for 30 mins or more only to have the call terminated. Surely they could have a queuing system where you know what position you are in the queue, and of course it is an appalling system that allows you to hold on for ages only to be cut off. I also agree about the lack of email service, to be able to communicate by email would be a good solution for the general public as well as for staff.

Ive been trying for days, every time on hold upto a hour then cut off. Tried on line help, that another waste of time to

Mike Williams says:
24 October 2016

Same thing happened to me and what I found the most annoying aspect was their constant reference to their useless website. Obviously the only reason one telephones is because the website is of no assistance so being repetitively told that you would be better off contacting the web site is just a wind up.

Susan says:
29 August 2015

My husband is waiting for a substantial tax refund from a previous tax year. All paperwork has been submitted. Has tried to contact HMRC by post in April 2015 as advised but received no reply. This week alone he has tried phoning several times with no luck. Today he made 2 attempts at phoning for 58 minutes each time (less than 1 hour we get free calls). Still could not get through. We are both fed up with listening to that god awful music. Is there actually anybody working at the call centre today? Heads should roll for this abysmal service. Can anybody suggest how we can make contact and how we seek redress for this? Thanks.

Hi Susan
If you (or your accountant) has on online account, you can re-apply for the refund as quite often, these don’t seem to work when claiming through the submission of your self assessment. Also, it is best to ring HMRC on a Saturday morning before 12.

Fiona says:
2 September 2015

Hiya, like many many others on here I have spent many hours/days/weeks trying to get through to HMRC with little or no luck, long times spent on hold only to be cut off or told too busy, or told office is now closed after waiting on hold for nearly a hour. then saw on here about the number Gemma posted ( love you Gemma 🙂 thank you) rang the number total time to get through and update my details 5 mins 43 seconds. Now why is it so hard for the normal number?

Hi all, thanks for all your comments. We’ve just published a new post featuring the poll results and the comments from DaveW, Mikey and Malcolm R:

Thanks to your overwhelming response here, we featured the poll results in the September issue of Which? magazine, and we reached out to HMRC again. They told us:

‘We have just completed the recruitment and training of 3,000 staff who will answer calls and letters. We’re also trialling a web-chat service so that simple queries can be answered by contacting an adviser online.’

In our new Convo, we’re asking if there are any other companies that keep you on hold as much as HMRC has: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/call-waiting-on-hold-hmrc-tax-phone/

Called HMRC at 7:20pm today. Was still on hold at 8:00pm when the message changed from “you are waiting in a queue and an advisor will answer as soon as possible” (which is a lie)” to “our lines are now closed, please call again another time” before the phone cut off.

My baby is 24 hours old – I can think of things I would rather be doing than speaking to HMRC but I have no choice but to try again tomorrow. I hate them.

01355 359022 , I used this number, call answered within 3 rings then transfered to an advisr, issue resilved in less than 5 minutes , now that is service.

FYI, I asked the advisor why i was hanging on the line for an hour each time i call the normal help line, he response was that this number was for over seas callers and they get to jump the que.

I found this number on here from Gemma’s post so a very big thank you to Gemma. and good luck to the rest of you.

Many tnks to Gemma and ur self I have finally been able to get through to them less than 2mins of calling this number after been trying for days. Becky

Richard says:
16 December 2015

I just tried this number, still didn’t work,

sham .B says:
15 September 2015

What a joke after calling 3 /4 times and been on hold for over 20 mins and then been cut off today received my phone bill and it’s shocking
No point in calling them again

Maria Rumley says:
21 September 2015

I needed to call the tax office today Monday 21/09/15 to discuss and ask why they have changed my tax code.. On my first attempt after 28 minutes I was cut off. Second attempt I waited 59 minutes before I put the phone down so I wouldn’t be charged for the call. My third try resulted me giving up after 40 minutes. 2 hours and 10 minutes is unacceptable, I’ll try again in the morning.

I have been waiting an hour and a half on the phone trying to get through, this is discusting for a goverment run service it should be up to standard we dont pay tax for nothing!
maybe they should employ more people to deal with the overwhelming amount of calls they recive on a daily basis and create some jobs while there at it. its different when they want answers off us!
never been so angered by a phone call in my life says something when your waiting longer then you ever would to jobseekers! WOW!!!

oh yes but when you owe them money they certainly seem to answer calls faster than when you don’t ive noticed… the annoying thing is we still have to pay for the phone call while your on hold

nigel barker says:
23 September 2015

absolute disgrace.i have been told i owe the hm rc money,because i have two jobs.!!.i have no idea what the second job is.!!.so obviously concerned.i am now on my 5th attempt to get through to them.it has now been 1hr 12mns.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jordan says:
24 September 2015

Waited over 1 hour so far… it was 6pm when i rang.

does anyone work there ? No wonder we all like cash in hand ! This is abysmal !

I had to contact HMRC about 8 weeks ago as I was on the wrong tax code. I suffered the same problems as everyone else here and was infuriated after waiting on the line for over an hour on my mobile to just be cut off. I previously worked with multiple clients in a call center so I have a good idea of the structure and reasoning of their IVR system. I can tell you the reason they cut you off is so that you are not included within their wait times that they publish, as the call was never actually answered.

I eventually received a letter confirming that I was owed a tax refund and claiming that the cheque would follow in a few weeks. I have left it for nearly 8 weeks now and today decided to chase HMRC again. After again ringing and being hung up on I used the number that Gemma provided (01355 359022), I was hung up on once within 2 mins but then answered within 30 seconds the second time.

It transpired that HMRC in their infinite wisdom decided to send the first letter confirming I am due a rebate to my current address, but send the cheque to my previous address. Oh, and I have to wait another 6 weeks for them to confirm that the cheque hasn’t been cashed.. Just goes to show that the cross-department communication is as bad as their customer service.

You guys are do not appreciate the level of work HMRC employee’s must face daily, they are managed extremely harshly, for example if a call exceed 6 minutes the manager will be on the CC staffs case about it, you really wouldnt understand the amount of calls and aftercare work that goes in to the level of service provided.

the aim is 6 mins on call, 2 mins to complete all follow up tasks required such as typing up a letter to send out to the caller who requested multiple things.

think of the entire population of the UK vs approx 6 CC staff at each location, some calls are complex and can take well over 1 hour, some are basic which are completed fast.

each day you would personally take 45-50 calls all regarding different matters which require time to obtain guidance and cross checking facts before issuing statements etc.

HMRC contact Centre is pressed like crazy and is far understaffed, you get 5 minutes every 2 hours confort break (to go to the toilet or grab a drink) heaven forbid you go over it then you get in trouble, if you get through to an advisor then treat them with respect because they understand you have been on hold for a while but they are not the ones responsible for it.

sick of the bashing that Ive read here, you are all clueless.

*60 CC staff per location*

Dano, it is HMRC as an organisation that is being “bashed” for providing an unacceptable service, not its individual employees. Think of how many callers there are who spend a huge amount of time trying to contact HMRC and the productive time they, and their, organisations are losing.
Are Which? having a campaign to get the HMRC service radically improved? Perhaps they could ask to attend the next Commons select commitee when they interrogate HMRC on their performance.

But you still need to remember that HMRC is doing the best within its means. The government cutbacks meant that over 1800 staff were made redundant last year in september 14, also they had to restrict all pay rises for staff, making it limited to about £200 a year per person.

there is no point in trying to get HMRC to improve their services as it is impossible given the current operating standards they are subjected to. I mean jeez they still use Windows XP for gods sake.

Malcolm, I can understand peoples frustration with the Revenue, trust me, I was on the receiving end of it and please trust me when I say that 80% of staff really try their best and try to go the extra mile for customers but its impossible to buy a cow using milk as currency! HMRC is NOT the problem, it is the goverment constraints which are place on it.

People need to realise that nothing is black and white in this world, especially when it comes to the UK, I just hope people can actually look into WHY HMRC are unable to answer calls as quick as they want.


A call centre is like a pipeline. If every caller is on the line for an hour, and this period is neither lengthening nor shortening, over time [as seems to be the case from the reports from people here] then there is a blockage in the pipeline. Clear that blockage with a bit of judicious overtime and temporary staff resources and the line will flow smoothly again. It’s probably not quite as simple as that but nobody can convince me that the problem is intractable within a few weeks.

What an ignorant response ….yes of course the call handlers should be treated with respect, however such a delay is utterly unacceptable and managers should sort it.

Started 6.05 pm and now its 7.04 pm and still waiting.
and one of their advisers will be with me as soon as possible!

Rachel McAdams says:
6 October 2015


Why can’t they have a freephone number and a call wait time of less than an hour at a time!?!?!?

Unbelievably poor service.

Georgie says:
14 October 2015

On hold to them now as i type, about to reach over the 40 mins point!!!! 🙁

Allen says:
16 October 2015

Phoned four times this morning. Each a duration of 15 to 20 minutes. When I become 1st in the queue the phone cuts off to an engaged tone. The Overseas number no longer works. Quite a shambles!

Mabel says:
16 October 2015

My daughter received a p800 about 6 weeks ago and has been trying to contact HMRC to receive a tax rebate as they had the wrong address on the letter and only due to our postman recognizing our surname did she even receive it at all…….
During the last 6 weeks she has phoned numerous times, mostly daily and been left on hold for 45 ish minuets a time, hanging up in sheer frustration at having to abandon a call to go back to work…..
Today 16 th October 2015 she has finally spoken to an adviser after being on hold for 63 mins (YES 1 hour and 3 mins) for it all to be sorted in less than 5 mins Total length of call 1 hour, 7 mins and 17 seconds…. I hope she hasnt been charged for the call 03002003300. Unbelievable something needs to be done and soon, this is a disgrace!!!!

A G Wallbank says:
21 October 2015

most days only time you have is a lunch time to call them and that is precisely the wrong time to call because you can be on hold for the entire hour you try again at 7:00 p.m. when you get back from work and they cut the phones off at 8:00 p.m. but you still get the automated voice stating that the office is now closed even though its not 8:00 p.m. I don’t bother calling any more I send everything in writing. My advice is to do 2 things.
1. Always write in the first instance never call, that way they have to reply 2. Send a copy to your local MP that will ensure that you get a very different department writing to you and their phone is answered instantly. If everyone wrote to HMRC they would soon change their telephone reaction times!