/ 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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ChrisN says:
18 May 2015

I waited 30 minutes on the phone before anyone answered when I called just to ask for a paper SA100 Self-Assessment Tax Return.

HMRC seems to think that it is the only their own time that is worth anything and that everyone else’s time is worthless.

A good way of boosting national productivity would be to get HMRC to answer phone calls immediately – it would free up thousands of man hours for the tax-paying public.

Chris R says:
18 May 2015

Second time today to try and find out why I have been asked to do a self assessment for 2013/14 when they have already refunded tax for that year. First call I hung up after 30 minutes. This time I am approaching the 40 minute level – will I get cut off? Should I just do the wretched return anyway? It would probably have taken me less time than I have now spent waiting. It’s obvious that the numbers for recently redundant, newly self employed people have increased hugely, and HMRC just cannot cope. And it’s not the nice people who answer the phone who are to blame, it’s people like that HMRC Manager bloke wossis name Dave Harnett who has now got a nice well paid city job after doing a nice for them) tax deal for HSB*****C. Anyway, I have now been cut off at 57 minutes, having actually been connnected and in the middleof waiting for someone to come back to me about whether I can expect a fine. Good eh?

18 May 2015

It is not even funny the girl in job market give me wrong number when I rang they give me another number when I rang no one was available to take my call in the job market so I couldnt even hold so wrote that was around end of march maybye april still no word back it is now middle of may what do I do I am at a loss

Michelle says:
18 May 2015

I have rang the tax credits help line on 12 occasion’s ..each time I am taken through a series of questions, my answers are hardly ever recognized by the recorded voice. I am then told that my call cant be answered and to call at another time,
So far my phone bill is £12.78 to this number, and i have achieved nothing.

Kirsty says:
19 May 2015

Further to my last comment on Friday at 8:01am this morning they are still to busy!!!!!! Since my son was diagnosed with a serious condition and I have had to leave a well paid job in the city to care for him I have found myself trying to make a claim but I can never ever ever get through how do they expect people to go on like this.

19 May 2015

My wife tried & tried to contact HMRC by phone & every time after going all the voice recognition prompts & options every call ended with, ‘Good Bye’ so we resorted to email,
an acknowledgement was received with a note that we would receive a response within 15days.
Pleased to say my wife received an email and her tax code problems have now been resolved.
So, if you are frustrated by phoning then try email, it works ! ! !

Angela Fenwick says:
19 May 2015

What is the email address to use?

iain iaindking67 says:
30 October 2015

what is the email please?

Angela Fenwick says:
19 May 2015

I have tried fro 3 days running to speak to somebody. The voice recognition does not give me an option or recognise my option. When I have got past this voice recognition by pretending i am ringing about something else I have been cut off.

Spencer says:
20 May 2015

I have been trying to get through to HMRC via their contact telephone numbers for the past couple of days, with no joy. I have been left on hold for over an hour on every occasion to which point I either hang up or get cut off. My issue still has not been resolved. The service is a joke.

Had my tax code changed for the worse without explanation, and my work can’t understand it. They sent me a ‘new tax code’ letter which refers to “we previously told you” yet I’ve had nothing else from them.
Over the past 2 weeks I have called five times and am yet to get through. First four calls I hung up at 25-35 mins waiting, yesterday waited for 46 minutes before putting the phone down to head to a meeting.
It’s unbelievably stressful, and is taking all my will power not to go completely ‘Falling Down’….

J.N. says:
22 May 2015

The HMRC are a disgrace with there response times. I have tried ringing many of times but as people are saying the wait times are ridiculous.. They have stopped my payments with out any notification whatsoever. Very frustrating seen as though bills need paying and people/energy providers/landlords don’t understand that HMRC have problems with attending to people!!!

m.cottrell says:
22 May 2015

cut off after 28mins holding, then after 48 mins cut off due to offices closing……….payments have been stopped with out notice……..great work tax credits……..this is an absolute nightmare!!!!!!!!

Echo says:
26 May 2015

I am a VAT adviser (ex HMRC) and generally now how HMRC work… in terms of dealing with VAT… however since changing jobs last year to become self employed (after I gave up my last job to look after my terminally ill wife). I have had nothing but problems with HMRC when trying to sort out my personal tax position (and those of my children who are being wrongly taxed as under 16, no NI number and no taxable income apart from a very small pension – that will disappear when they leave school), either the voice recognition doesn’t recognise my response, or I get told we are too busy then cuts me off, or I get through to the wrong section then I get cut off when being transferred.

Initially HMRC sent me a letter to advise that according to their records (a spreadsheet they had obtained from the DWP) I had received child benefit and was due to pay the higher rate charge – I proved by copy of letter that I had never received the child benefit.

Then HMRC has changed my tax code a number of times, all of which are wrong but I cant get to speak to anyone to get this sorted. As a result HMRC have been receiving tax on every penny I earn (as they have put me on a basic rate month 1 tax code).

This is a total shambles and from the comments above is becoming the norm rather than the exception. It is the arrogance of the those in charge of the department that think people can be fobbed off with “we are doing our best to resolve the situation” clearly they are not and they are able to hide in the background while the tax system crumbles around their ears.

Despite all the hoo hah in the press around avoidance and evasion, this shambles must be costing the country a fortune!

I wanted to call about Charitable contributions and how (or even why) to include them on my Self Assessment Tax return. The voice recognition system failed to recognise any of my key words and I had to wait about 35 mins for an answer.

Once I finally got through, I did in fact get a very helpful person who explained the position for my current tax return and that in general (- she even stated the exceptions) , it is only worth completing that section of you are a higher rate taxpayer (as an aside, my call may have been avoidable if the on-line form and help pages were worded more clearly).

I then discussed my previous tax returns and, realising that I had incorrectly omitted charitable contributions from those, she explained how to correct those returns and claim back some overpaid tax. However, apparently, that requires some very specific wording (which she gave me), or my attempts to correct those would be rejected ! – time will tell.

However, that does make me wonder if HMRC should be in a position to demand that errors are corrected using a specific wording. Errors are errors and we all make them. Particularly given the complexity of the tax system and some of the specialist terms that are used.

sheila says:
28 May 2015

Holding on to speak to someone in Self-Assessment for nearly 60mins is ridiculous. How can someone deal with an urgent issue or discuss tax issues if they simply cannot get through.

There is no option for a call back service. As this would be useful.

If they are simply short staffed, then they need to employ more people to take calls quick and efficiently. What is the point of having a service that clearly is not accessible, and then when you do get through after holding on for so long, that you get an unhelpful member of staff who cannot deal with your issue and only to be told you need to call back as they are not allowed to put you through the relevant department/person.

This is no service to the public civilians, this is simply putting people in more distraught situations when they are simply trying to solve a problem

greg says:
28 May 2015

I have been trying to speack to the vat office for 3 days now average wait time 20 mins got feed up and had a brew instead

Clippyjo says:
29 May 2015

I just called as I’m on the wrong tax code.

I got through to an automated machine and after struggling to enter my details verbally I finally got put through…. to a voicemail message saying they were very busy and unable to deal with my call at this time.

I was then cut off.

Oh dear. Not a chance of speaking to a human.

Frustrated says:
29 May 2015

I am on the phone to them as I am writing. Got cut off 3 times just when I thought I was getting connected to a human. What the hell am I paying my taxes for when I cant even ring to speak to a human about a wrong tax code and letter showing multiple employers when I am employed by one. I think this is a swindle as they want to take more money and not let me have the right allowances.

Lisa says:
30 May 2015

I have been trying to get through since I started paying for childcare which was the 11th May 2015 I’ve tried calling at different times of the day even at 8am and I always get cut off. I’m having to pay all my childcare costs every week now with no help as they won’t take my calls and it’s becoming a real struggle. Not sure what to do..

Lisa says:
30 May 2015

This is for child tax credits…

Martin Ellison says:
2 June 2015

Finally got through today after 35 minutes on hold. Had been trying for days to find out why my meagre payment had suddenly stopped but could not get passed the automation, which eventually told me to check my bank then cuts you off with no options for if you have already checked with your bank. In the end I went for renewals just to try and talk to a human and spoke to two very helpful and polite advisers who straightened things out in a matter of minutes. Their system is letting down both the public and their own staff, who must unfairly bear the brunt of peoples utter frustration. It may help if those at the top actually came out of their offices and tried to use their own system.

Hollie says:
3 June 2015

Long story short hmrc decided neither my ex-partner, nor I, were responsible for our son as of last November. I was, and still am a single parent. They stopped my working tax and child tax credits at the beginning of April, leaving me £99/week worse off. All I can say is thank god I live temporarily at home, otherwise we’d probably be homeless. The money-borrowing situation is getting ridiculous though. I’ve called about 6 times and am getting nowhere, wrote a letter as advised by their staff, and was written back to (I guess I should be grateful I received s reply at all…) telling me my previous letter was void and I should fill in my annual review, which I haven’t received yet. Everyone else I know getting tax credits seems to have their already. And so begins the trying to get through on the phone again… Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe it!