/ Money

How long have HMRC helplines kept you waiting?

Person making phone call

You’re still facing long waiting times and having your call cut off when phoning Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs – that’s clear from the stories you’ve told us. So we’re starting a poll to find out how long you’ve waited.

We highlighted the problem with HMRC’s self assessment helplines five months ago and since then thousands of you have read the investigation and we’ve had nearly 200 comments telling us what happened to you.

And sadly there is no sign that the problem is getting any better as the complaints are continuing to come in.

Your problems with HMRC

Here are just a few of your stories. Kate tried for more than a month to let HMRC know about her change of circumstances.

‘I’ve been on every day for 40 minutes plus every time. Getting nowhere and absolutely dreading my phone bill.’

Joseph needed to know why his tax code was changed.

‘I’ve been taxed an extra £200 last month when I’m already on a low wage working in London – leaving me well short of what I need to live on.’

He called multiple times after work and during lunch breaks but whatever ‘option’ he tried, was always told ‘we’re very busy right now and all our agents are on other calls’.

Gemma suggested trying the adviser helpline number (01355 359022) to get through faster. It’s worth trying, but you may still face a frustrating wait once your call is forwarded.

How HMRC plans to tackle the problem

We met with HMRC shortly after publishing our investigation and it admitted there was a problem. It hired extra staff for the January ‘tax season’ and trained more people to take calls.

It plans to develop a ‘digital account’ that lets you communicate securely online. The idea is to relieve pressure on call centres by making it easier to update details and find basic information, but plans haven’t been finalised.

It’s worrying that getting through by phone is still a problem, long after the tax return deadline has passed. Waiting times of more than 20 minutes now, doesn’t bode well for later in the year.

Call HMRC early

For the general enquiries number (0300 200 3300) and self-assessment (0300 200 3310), the best advice still seems to be ‘call early’. HMRC opens at 8am, so putting in a call before breakfast is recommended.

Calling later increases your risk of being cut off. Don’t forget lines close at 4pm on Saturday (and aren’t open at all on Sunday and bank holidays), so try weekday mornings – let us know how you get on!

What is your experience of dealing with HMRC – is it worse than other organisations you need to contact? And what about the voice-recognition system?

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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Tracey says:
14 January 2016

Waited 20 minutes, cant afford to wait for longer , will have to give up now as I have to work!

Dr R A Barnes says:
10 February 2016

Tried to ring HMRC Help Line 3 times at different times of the day but gave up after 40 -45 minutes wait on each occasion. Tried to get in early and rang at 08.00 on the dot but still kept waiting 40 minutes! I can only assume a minimum 40 minute wait is programmed into their system. Decided to write instead. Quicker and much less hassle.

kirstie mckillop says:
21 December 2018

waiting 20 minutes yesterday tried again at 9am this morning no answer constant queues and I ca not afford to keep calling. tax code has been changed and I am paying almost £220 tax. leaving me really short for important bills

tina says:
10 January 2019

even when I got through, after waiting for 23 minutes, no one could help. They aren’t aware of any exemptions for VAT digital payments even though it’s on their website. I then got phoned by someone who was going to call back… they didn’t. I then sent an email on the website.. no one got back to me. Today I phoned three times, cut off twice, left on hold once. Sent another message on line. My husband is terminally ill, we are old and finishing the business this year, we can’t pay for software and new hardware and training It’s daft and the worry and non-replies is really making us quite ill at present.

Liz McEwan says:
30 April 2019

I have tried 5 times yesterday and this morning to get through. After answering all the nonsense questions finally just told that they cannot take my call and please call back later….it is just ridiculous. They simply obviously do not have the staff to cope.

Sheila Player says:
27 January 2020

what a disgraceful service i have been on hold for nearly an hour

I am assuming that with the self-assessment tax return deadline at the end of this week HMRC are genuinely experiencing a high number of calls at the moment. I hope that is the only excuse for the bad response times.