/ 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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Mikey says:
4 June 2015

58 minutes before I got through, but was so worth it in the end. They were super fast and knowledgeable. Must have been on the phone about two minutes and I was sorted.

It’ll take some time to fully forgive them for the wait. But I’ll heal: we all will heal.

Laura says:
5 June 2015

Last Saturday I tried to call and I was on hold for 40mins before giving up (I did manage to clean my whole flat in this time, though – so, every cloud and all that!) . I thought I’d try again this morning (Friday), I dialed before 10am and I was on hold for 45 mins before getting through to an incredibly helpful person. The service you get in the end is great. It’s just incredibly frustrating being on hold all that time.

Mel says:
5 June 2015

over 45 minutes and still waiting!
my husband called the IR the other evening and was waiting over an hour, eventually the lines closed at 8pm and he was automatically cut off before ever getting answered!

Mel says:
5 June 2015

Eventually answered in 55 minutes. Very helpful when finally got through.
They say they’re trying to deal with call waiting issues.
In the meantime its best to call early morning (I called Friday afternoon)

Deb C says:
6 June 2015


I have been trying to reach them for the last 3 weeks at morning, afternoon and evening.Everytime waiting for 35-40 min and no luck yet.

It is really a pathetic service. Do you have any email to escalate? I have escalate one of the email,but they say that they are dealing with the only online issue.

I am not sure, whether we are living in the first world or third grade country.. It is no worth to live in this pathetic place, where you need to call 100 times Avg 40-50 mins to sort an issue.

If we are having problems with a company we can take our business elsewhere or take legal action over an existing complaint, but that is not an option with a government department. The government should be asked to intervene, as a matter of urgency.

Thankfully, I have not had to phone HMRC recently.

Paaul Rogers says:
8 June 2015

When you eventually get through the staff are great. They are knowledgeable and helpful but clearly understaffed so can only do their best.

I know my query will be answered quickly and they are usually 100% correct. That said it would be easier in the first instance if we could view our records online and verify tax allowances etc.


Gary Lemin says:
8 June 2015

I have just spent 40 mins waiting and only to then to get pushed onto another 3 departments, the second time I called I waited for 20 Mins.
I also failed the security check but they couldn’t tell me what had failed on. I know my details are correct so I don’t know how to get the details up graded so I can pass the simple security check.

Pete says:
8 June 2015

I rang this morning and after 35 minutes I gave up. I then rang this afternoon and was determined to wait. Which I did for 45 minutes.
All I wanted was a form for a tax refund which should have been easily pulled off of their web.site. But NO. The PDF would not load on 1/My laptop 2/ An ipad 3/ Tab3. all with the latest version of Adobe as suggested by the Tax web. site.
When I did get through I was then told it would take 8 to 10 working days to post the form to me and when it was returned it would take 8 to 10 weeks to pay me back the money they owe me.
If you are late sending in information they fine you ???? But it’s OK for them to make you wait….

little mon says:
8 June 2015

I always dread calling them as i know how difficult is to get through. I still have not recieved my annual renew pack and there is no other way but to call. I find this service is an absolute joke. I also need to tell them in the change of circumstances. If i don’t call them they will send me a penalty for not informing them. So how do i inform them if i can’t get through? I have tried for weeks only to be cut off each time. So fed up. Is a way for government to make money on phone bills. Total disgrace. They said they have improve from previous years on waiting time but it has not improved but has gone worse. Those in management should be held accountable for this.

jens richardson says:
9 June 2015

25 mins yesterday and didn’t get through. Tried this morning for 40 mins with no luck. SHOCKING service.

James Pargeter says:
9 June 2015

I have been trying to contact the HMRC about my Tax Relief for weeks and weeks, I sent a special delivery P87 form to them regarding my Business Mileage over 3 months ago and have still not heard anything back from them. I have tried calling 16 times and spent in total 6 hours and 13 minutes on hold. I hate the fact I have to work so hard and I pay my taxes but the government can’t be bothered to simplify this service for the people of Britain – I would happily offer a small increase in my on own tax to rectify this god awful service. Sort it out before you p**s off everyone!

Adam says:
9 June 2015

I’ve called 27 times now and being on hold sometimes for as long as 1 hour and 16 minutes before giving up.
I really don’t know what else to do.
I call in the morning, on all of my break and then on the way home. It’s hopeless. HELP

Adam says:
9 June 2015

Now on my 28th call, 38 minutes in and have to go back to work.

I received a letter from them saying I owed £46, two weeks letter another letter stating that a debt collection agency would be dealing with it if I didn’t pay immediately. They demand money but do nothing to help.

Another terrible service.

This must be improved

Donna says:
10 June 2015

Having waited over 20 minutes I finally got through to a very helpful chap. However, I’m assuming my query hasn’t been dealt with (even though it’s regards to a bill) as I’ve yet to hear from them. I have called back at various times throughout various days just to get cut off by them. How on earth are you supposed to comply and be a conscientious bill payer if you can’t discuss issues of payment with them?! Very frustrating!

Forthright says:
11 June 2015

On hold for 22mins on first call. Rang off because could not wait any longer. On hold for 55mins on second call. Again rang off. Don’t know what to do next. Don’t think complaining to Ofcom will help.

Sophie says:
11 June 2015

Answered after 45 minutes hurray!!!!! Query took 3 minutes to be answered: “you tried to reset your password after we had locked your account out due to too many failed attempts, reset your password in 2 hours’ time it should work” 45 minutes for that…. LOVELY

Frustrated says:
12 June 2015

I’m desperate to get hold of them, their letters don’t make sense, I’ve definitely submitted my tax return and received correspondence advising of a credit as a result of this filed return, only to receive further correspondence stating I have not submitted my tax return and owe over £300! Can I get throught to the HMRC, can I heck! I have tried different times, even 8 in the morning and been on hold for up to 50 minutes each time. I have a life so cannot keep waiting. I’m actually on hold again now and have to go to a meeting, so will have to try again another time – beyond frustrating!!!

Julie Frost says:
12 June 2015

Tried all week to update them with a change in my circumstances, held for over 20 minutes each time before giving up – am currently still on hold and have been for 30 minutes. I’ll have to give up again and try later, I have to leave to pick my son up from school. Not good enough, especially when they’re so quick to penalise if you don’t update them!

kate says:
12 June 2015

I can’t get through. Keep getting cut off. Tried at 8am, 4pm 4.30pm etc etc etc. No one ever answers. Sent email to watchdog. Someone needs to be accountable.