/ 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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C.Lofstedt says:
11 May 2015

I had to call HMRC on several occasions recently. After several frustrating minutes trying to navigate the Voice Recognition System, which seemed unable to cope with my query, and offered no choice relevant to me, I waited in excess of 20 minutes on one occasion and 40 minutes on another. On another occasion I was held for 30 minutes or so, but fortunately that call cost nothing because it was made in the evening.

I have written to HMRC on several occasions over the last 6 months about a misdeclaration of a benefit by my former employer. Their first reply was helpful, albeit written 4 weeks after I wrote to them, but since then my letters requesting further information have been met with evasive replies, written on each occasion 4 weeks or more after I wrote to them, and one letter has received no reply at all despite having been written over 2 months ago and despite reminders.

I have now requested a meeting with a senior tax officer to sort out the mess, but that letter was written 2 weeks ago, and of course no reply has arrived.

I am on the point of writing to my MP about this.

JOHN says:
12 May 2015

I have tried about 10 x to set up a direct debit to allow HMRC to draw my N.I. payments.The DD is always rejected and the bank, (begins with S) says its HMRC’s fault, HMRC say its the BANK!!
So I set up a standing order based on what i pay 3mthly.(circa) and this has been deducted from my bank 3x over the last 9 mths. (success I hear you say)!!

Just received a “payment due” letter from HMRC which seems to include the amounts paid over the last 9mths!! (i.e. NOT PAID) Tried to contact HMRC 3x over the last mth. Waited 24mins, 20mins. and 15mins today.

No web access for problems, complaints or queries ……..I’m gonna emigrate …..

Jeremy Boden says:
12 May 2015

Gave up after 40 minutes.

They don’t reply to letters either.

Nick says:
13 May 2015

Yesterday i had two calls drop after about 40 minutes each, so frustrating
I eventually got through this morning, but still had to wait fifteen minutes and i started dialling at 08:00 exactly.
they only have two bits of hold music that loop at about 20 seconds each – feels like psychological torture.
This was corporation tax as opposed to self assessment, but still relevant.

Ken says:
13 May 2015

I had to phone the HMRC several times over a mistake they made that has resulted in them accusing me of not having paid my tax in one year, therefore demanding payment and interest. Despite four lengthy phone calls I am still unaware of this is resolved.

What happened was that, instead of issuing one refund for 2012-13, they issued two. I then reached agreement on the amount to pay back to resolve their error. It appears they then put the money into 2013-14!

So, although I have never owed them anything and was public-spirited enough to highlight their mistake and go out of my way to resolve it, HMRC are perhaps (we still cannot find out) considering me to be in default for 2012-13 due to their error!

So far I have racked up the best part of a day and a half of my time on the phone. The promised call-back from the last call has never happened.

Cherie29 says:
13 May 2015

Been trying to get through for weeks. Get to 40+ minutes then they cut me off (every time) my job role is changing, I’m a single mother with two children and trying to sort out childcare tax credit is proving to be a nightmare. If I can’t get through within the next week then I can’t afford the childcare. The result of that will be no more job for me! HMRC needs to sort this!!

bob s says:
13 May 2015

having got through to someone then being told I need to talk to somebody else ,then its I cant transfer you youll have to phone again.well thats rubbish I got through to probably the only employee there that had an half a brain and he told me anybody can transfer your call to anyone so the majority of government employees are as I thought time wasting overpaid layabouts.

Nikki says:
13 May 2015

I have been trying to contact them for days, today I was waiting for 50 minutes and I always end up hanging up because I don’t have time to sit there all day wasting my phone bill, it’s really frustrating! I need to contact them about a change in my circumstances but i’ll guarantee if I can’t get them and they find out my change they’ll be on the phone like a shot. There isn’t even an email address to contact them! It’s crazy, They need to sort it out!

Kirsty says:
15 May 2015

For weeks of trying at various times I am still not able to get through, lost count on all the times it’s just to busy or if you are lucky to get through to a waiting system they cut you off 40-45 mins holding time. No choice but to keep trying but annoying that each failed attempt still costs me a small fortune.

Sarah says:
15 May 2015

This is just utterly horrendous. I am trying to report a change of childcare provider and cost and I simply cannot get through. More often than not I am forced to tell them why I am ringing and listen to the pointless recorded information for two minutes before being told ‘sorry we cannot take your call’. I have got into the queue twice and after around 35 to 40 minutes the call cuts off. I don’t hang up, it simply cuts itself off. I am now trying again and am on hold for the third time. It is just utterly disgraceful.

kathy says:
15 May 2015

They MUST start using either an engaged tone or numbering system for the caller. At the moment due to the design, it costs us to phone regardless of if you are actually connected to an adviser. I have tried to make contact morning, noon, and night with 45 minute plus waiting each time. Currently they advise to call between 2pm and 4pm, but I have found they don’t answer they phone no matter what time of day it is. They are making money on EVERY SINGLE call we make regardless of if a human answers. Where is this money going? Defo not on there phone answering staff!

Also found that waiting times for EVERYTHING across the board are 2 times as long if it relates to tax credits as oppose to self assessment…personally I thing no group should be given priority over another, but it is no coincidence that there is likely more income is generated for HMRC when they answer self assessment calls, where as more money is paid out the more tax credits calls they answer….is this really a fair system in a modern democracy?
Organisations such as which and ofcom and other regulatory bodies should put more pressure on the government!

Charles says:
15 May 2015

Just call (03002003300) to ask of my P60 for 2013 takes 20 minutes and no response this is unacceptable.

Mike o'Grady says:
16 May 2015

It’s not so much the waiting that annoys me it’s the attitude when you make an inquiry and the way they take it upon themselves to mess with your tax number which you never asked them to do. At one point they messed up my wife’s number so much it left her with nothing in her pay for one month and all she wanted to do was put in a claim for laundering her uniforms.

These problems could easily be avoided if HMRC wished to do so. All they need do is employ the telephone system used by NPower where it gives yo the opportunity to leave your name and number and receive a callback without losing your place in the queue.

Rod says:
16 May 2015

If you look around you’ll find a number to use if you are abroad. Although you’ll pay the standard charge to use this you’ll usually find the number is answered in seconds by a human who is usually very helpful. Give it a try!

After I got picked on by HMRC’s Long Benton Office for over claiming expenses and threatened with prosecution, I tried to ring HMRC three times. Each time I was kept pressing buttons for this and that and then put on hold for over half an hour before the phone just cut out.

So I just gave up trying to phone, they don’t provide email addresses or web forms and they have closed their local office so I took to writing. This was interesting as they seemed incapable of picking up more than one point from any letter I sent them and even then misinterpreted what I sent or incorrectly transposed numbers.

I persisted and over the next 2 years provided 100s of pages of evidence, mostly printed out from my employer’s web site, that their previously closed local office would have known about. In the course of the correspondence I was given links, not easy or even possible to find on their web site, to detailed rules and case law they used to back up their case to cut back on the tax relief on my expenses. Fortunately for me I was able to use this information to prove not only had they to allow my claim but I was able to identify further expenses they needed to allow.

At no point have they sent me a summary of my tax paid (P800) despite repeated requests. The whole process seems to be designed to threaten, bully and exhaust people into giving up. All they did was send inaccurate, incorrect and inadequate explanations and random cheques. So after two years of messing me about they ended up paying me more than I had claimed in the first place, but not as much as I am entitled to.

I have now given up satisfied they have given me more than I asked for in the first place. Goodness knows how people less determined and able to understand their confusing rules than me get on. How come normal people get picked on while billionaires and large corporations get away with paying little or no tax? It has been a total waste of my time and theirs. They are a total disgrace and someone should do something about it!

Colin Tyler says:
16 May 2015

Too much time is used up listening to automated voices, which is even more annoying when you just get cut off during busy periods. I eventually got through relatively quickly at 8.00 a.m. Once talking HMRC staff are very helpful and patient. It would help considerably if one was given an idea where one is in the queue, or how long the estimated waiting period is.

Pam says:
16 May 2015

I came to the UK in September 2013 as a visitor for an extended stay.I had lived elsewhere for 40 years so was not a UK tax payer and all my income came from and was taxed in my home country. After 6 months I decided to stay longer and invest some money in the UK. A few months later I informed HRMC. Before this they had no knowledge of me and I hadn’t got an HRMC file or tax reference. A long time term deposit I had had invested in the UK previously matured in 2014 and I earned 800 pounds. This was my total UK income for 2013-14. HRMC said I had to submit a return for 2013-14 even though I had paid UK tax on the 800 pounds and full tax on my income in my home country. So I sent them all the documentation showing I had paid my tax. They then sent the return back to me saying I hadn’t filled out a residence and remittance form. I sent this back to them with the original documentation and their letter asking for the extra documentation (bad mistake this as I can’t now prove they sent it). They then lost all my documentation and demanded I pay 100 UK pounds for failing to submit my return on time. I tried several times to get through to HRMC on the phone each time being cut off after 45 minutes. In the end I gave up trying to get through on the phone – i doubt there was anyone there anyway. Thoroughly fobbed off I wrote them a letter. I await the reply but not with baited breath. Its enough to drive me back to my home country where the tax system is much simpler and you can always get through to the right people on the phone.

Pam says:
2 June 2015

An update on my previous comments. I got a second fine notice two weeks after I sent a letter. I rang at 8 am this time and got through to a very helpful advisor after about 25 minutes. He explained the problem was that my documents had arrived by post well within the deadline (a month before) but because of the backlog in post they weren’t logged before the deadline expired. They had now been logged to the correct date but whoever logged it didn’t cancel the fine notices that had automatically gone out. He apologized profusely. So it seems resolved but I will wait o relax about it after I receive the formal notice of waiver

These comments should be shown to an MP select commitee. I am horrified to see accounts such as that of the lone parent who is in danger of losing her job because of of HMRC indifference. Having read the Which article about HMRC calls, I chose not to call but to follow Which’s addvice i.e. to write them a letter; I was told to expect 4 weeks for a reply. I wrote in mid-March, it’s now mid May and I’m still waiting for the reply.

concerned says:
18 May 2015

Don’t hold your breath, they have post going back to December last year. The problem is they have 4000 less staff than this time last year. Believe it or not they have every person able to take phone calls logged on the phone system but the bottom line is there just aren’t enough people to do everything that needs doing.

Michelle says:
17 May 2015

I’ve been trying to get my PAYE tax sorted out for nearly a year now (incorrect tax codes for the last 3 years). Having had no joy in writing, I was getting really annoyed at recorded messages advising me to use the website as they are experiencing a very high volume of calls and therefore are unable to help me on the phone, then saying goodbye and the line goes dead!!!!

Finally got through to a real person on Saturday after waiting for 45 minutes, and whilst they have advised me what they intend to do to solve my problem, it should never have taken this long and been this difficult.