/ 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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Comments
Michelle says:
27 April 2015

I have been trying for days to contact HMRC for an SA302 form. The last time I was on hold was for 35 minutes and I had to hang up as I couldn’t face listening to anymore of the awful music. I am currently on hold and so far its 48 minutes. Its completely unacceptable as I have no idea when my call will be picked up if at all. Wish me luck!

Richard says:
27 April 2015

I am currently waiting to speak to somebody.

Just checked my phone (My mobile!) and I have been waiting for 43 minutes so far.

How hard can it be? An increase of phone calls are likely after 5pm so why not employ more people to take the calls?

Absolutely f***ing ridiculous!

This music is doing my nut in too ffs!

alison says:
27 April 2015

I’ve tried 6 times today, put on hold for 47 minutes on one attempt and then cut off.

Not good enough by a long way.

alison says:
27 April 2015

I’m ringing them because they’ve changed my tax code so currently I have no tax allowance. The amount of tax I’ve paid this month has reduced my wages so much I can’t afford my bills. I can’t get through to ask them to correct my tax code and find out when I’ll get my money back. I’ve got 2 children. It’s very stressful and totally unnecessary. I’ve had another letter today about my tax code changing. If I could just speak to somebody please…

Stephen says:
28 April 2015

I have never managed to get through on the telephone and now they are not even replying to letters. Their customer service is absolutely atrocious, it was never ever as bad as this when they had separate offices and addresses.
It is not surprising that tax evasion is a problem, I would not help them even though I could, why is the government building up so much resentment with such a poor service which is totally counterproductive to all they are trying to achieve.

Jenni says:
28 April 2015

On phone as I type! “One of our advisers will be with you as soon as possible” is th constant message. It is now 30 minutes and counting!
Really not good enough. Too long now to give up but no idea of queue length or how long it will take. JUST BEEN CUT OFF!!! “Sorry, we cannot deal with your call at the moment, goodbye”
SO CROSS!!

tasha Jones says:
28 April 2015

45 minutes and still currently waiting, this takes the royal p**s!!!!!

Mick Green says:
28 April 2015

Have tried calling HMRC Twiice a day for almost 3 weeks now, talk about frustrated, tried various times of the day ranging from morning to night, very very poor service, it will be cheaper to pay the income tax overpayment i am being charged than waiting in a queue then getting told that they are too busy to takke my call, absolute garbage……………..

fiona says:
28 April 2015

Been trying to get through for two days. first time was put on hold for 58minutes then got cut off at 8pm. Since then havent been able to get through at all. completely ridiculous.

Karen English says:
28 April 2015

Called them last week – 49 minutes on hold.
Called them tonight – 54 minutes on hold … AND … no record of my ordering SA302s last week either!

Jane Brueton says:
28 April 2015

Tried phoning three times today as have been sent notification of incorrect tax code. Waited over 30 mins each time and still no answer. So frustrated.

Jane Brueton says:
28 April 2015

I read online if you call the number for people phoning from abroad they actually answer. Am going to give it a go 028 9053 8192. Or you can try 01355 359022. Haven’t tried these numbers myself but anything has got to be better than that goddam awful muzak

paul says:
29 April 2015

I’m on hold as I type this… 48 minutes. And it’s been 2 days I’ve been trying… they take my money quicker than this !

Aitch says:
29 April 2015

Call not answered and I was cut off 3 times. I shouldn’t have to listen to the dreadful music. They need to continually advise your progress in the queue. It’s impossible to get through. It’s not good enough as they’re quick enough to fine you if you file late. Totally scandalous and there’s nothing anyone can do.

sinead kelly says:
29 April 2015

I have been trying throughout the week, different times of day, before and after work, also on days off. Left on for about an hour listening to music and then other times cut off after going through automated questions. Panicking to update them and about the cost of phone calls to them!!! Single parent, struggling financially, struggling to update them on my new job. Process not made any easier.

Nick says:
30 April 2015

Following experiences below am supporting Which campaign but will be writing to MP and making formal complaint under HMRC Charter, item 9 (see end of this post, Charter is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/91888/charter.pdf )

Please all do the same.

0829 am started phoning HMRC. Only 20 minutes holding as I start typing this one-fingeredly. First experience a few weeks ago: Tax demand received. Tried to phone number given on letter (0845 3000 627) to discover it had changed to 0300 200 3300. Rang number. Infuriating series of automated questions with respondent unable to interpret responses. Finally got through that by creative word use then security then ………. muzak and irritating periodic totally useless message which give no idea of call waiting time or queue length. Gave up after 40 minutes and wrote letter on 31 March. Yesterday received chase up letter to original tax demand stating ‘If you have already written to us about this, please tell us by phoning our helpline number’. Absolutely incredible. Why, 4 weeks after writing to them should I have to phone them to tell them I wrote to them? (Number still incorrect on letter). So phoned and amazingly after 21 minutes got through. Very helpful (but clearly frustrated) guy informed me there was 9 weeks(!) postal backlog so my letter would be dealt with around 9 June! This is scandalous. I see from HMRC Your Charter that HMRC commit to: “9 Do all we can to keep the cost of dealing with us as low as possible.We aim to take up as little of your time and money as we can. We will: try to make our services straightforward and easy to access; make it as cheap as we can for you to contact us”

.

Baumchi says:
30 April 2015

I have called 7 times in the last 2 weeks, all of them have hit 1 hour and I have dropped the call as I do actually have to work during the day…

I am on attempt number 8 and only 14 minutes in…

I’ve written them 2 letters, the first they claim they never received and the second was sent 6 weeks ago… but still no update to my closed SA that is over due and sucking £10 a day from me… funnily enough it is a requested Return for 2010\2011 post an audit in 2013 that was never collected through my tax code as it should have… I no longer have the P45 or P60 from that time period so am stuck in catch 22 land…

I’m not currently overly impressed with HMRC….

jill says:
30 April 2015

Much the same as me. Was a company director for 14 years and accountant dealt with everything. I havent worked due to ill health since my company went into liquidation end of last year. So do I need to fill in a self assessment is all I want to ask. Ime neither self employed or employed and not claiming any job seekers allowance. HMRC should be shown up, Especially as its voting day approaching.

jill says:
30 April 2015

Five days now and still not got any answer. Tried at different times and yesterday held on for 47 minutes and then got cut off. I need one simple answer and its not on their website. Even phoned CAB but didnt get the answer I need.

Jez Hammond says:
30 April 2015

One hour and counting. It feels like being blacklisted, but I guess we’re all doomed if this keeps getting longer. For example what happens when we can’t get through at all? Is the plan to make us all unemployed and then impose sanctions!

That’ll save money…not.

Louise Brown says:
30 April 2015

on hold as I type 35 mins and counting!!!! i have better things to do! First time calling them NOT IMPRESSED!!