/ 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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Catherine says:
15 June 2015

I’ve been trying to get through for around 5 days, and have so far spent around four and a half hours waiting for them to answer. Every time I’ve been cut off by them, which is infuriating because I know how helpful they are when I do get through!

Mark says:
18 June 2015

I have tried a few times, but it costs 12p a minute and if I was on for an hour that’s £7.20. I have a tiny business thorugh which I earn my only income. I have been ill for years and barely have any money because I can’t do a nromal job and now Amazon (through whom I sell) want tax info from me which I can’t get without help from HMRC. I just feel like giving up on EVERYTHING!

Ian says:
24 June 2015

If you’re paying 12p per minute to call an 0300 or 0345 number then you are on the wrong tariff or with the wrong provider.

Most people call 03 numbers as part of an inclusive allowance of calls at zero incremental cost per call.

Cascy says:
18 June 2015

I hung up after 48mins of waiting. I received a tax rebate but the address on the cheque is completely wrong. This is their error as I have lived at the same address for 35 years.
I’m just hope bank doesn’t notice the wrong address when I pay the cheque in.

s gilhooly says:
19 June 2015

on now waiting 30 mins ++
I received a letter re 13/14 returns which was filed in Jan
have been trying since April to get through
My accountant sent online request – code was sent so that he could deal online with the issue but it had gone to spam as it had a virus and I found too late
Requested another code – zero
Its a shambles
Received letter April 2015 and still trying to get some sort of statement saying all is ok – jeez

s gilhooly says:
19 June 2015

on now waiting 30 mins ++
I received a letter in April re 13/14 returns – these were filed in Jan so concerned
My accountant sent online request – code was sent so that he could deal online with the issue but it had gone to spam as it had a virus and I found too late
Requested another code – zero
Its a shambles

Zoe Nash says:
24 June 2015

Have tried calling now 4 times, each time have been on hold for approx. 40mins, this is not good enough!

Ian, your poll does not ask whether those voting were hanging on and gave up, or whether theircall was answered in the time bands shown. Surely a key bit of information?
Are Which passing this information on to the Public Accounts Committee or the Treasury Select Committee to lambast HMRC with at their next encounter? These committees are keen on seeing HMRC do things properly.

Hi Malcolm, the reason for adding the poll was to measure the length of time before a single thing happened. – e.g. If calls were answered or they gave up.

We’re glad there’s still strong interest with this matter, although it’s a shame the problem means so many of you can’t get through. I can confirm that Ian’s keeping an eye on all the feedback shared here, and will be following it up in due course.

A Nash says:
30 June 2015

Been trying to get help with Self assessment. Which I don’t think I should be on. I have tried early morning, lunchtime, evenings and Saturdays. Been kept on hold for up to 30 minutes and cut off other times been cut off after 3-6 minutes. They will be quick to fine me if not completed but cant get the help I need.

Sue says:
7 July 2015

Just been waiting for 46 minutes only to be informed they cannot take my call, recorded message informed me to” try again later, goodbye”. Unfortunately this is not possible as I now have to go to work, I’m busy too!

Nic says:
7 July 2015

Reading the above comments with horror. I’ve been trying to get through for the past week (about 6 times in all), trying at different times of the day, waiting 20 mins, 35 mins before giving up.
They’ve sent me a self assessment form, and all I need to do is tell them I shouldn’t be on self assessment (I’ve already checked the criteria on their website). Just one tiny simple thing, and I’m tearing my hair out trying to get through. Can’t they even provide an email address?
I will definitely complain, this is far worse than any other organisation I’ve ever had to deal with, and I’m paying much more money to them than to any other organisation. Just because we have to pay, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect a decent service!

Shaun Looker says:
7 July 2015

I’ve rung the self assessment helpline 8 times in the last week and been put on hold every time and I’ve give up after an average of 40 minutes. I’ve incurred over £25 in call charges and not spoken to anyone. Also 60 miles in travelling to tax office to sort my problem out only to be turned away from them all. If they want my money they can come to me.

Den says:
8 July 2015

I have tried on many occasions and now I have just received my phone bill, £15.57 for calls to HMRC trying to get some support with an over payment of tax, I am now a pensioner and cannot afford to pay out £15 to get a simple question answered, absolutely unbelievable, I have wrote to them with no acknowledgment at all of the letter I sent, Like all large companies today, it’s easy to sign up to anything, but to contact them is almost impossible, time something was done to help customers to actually be able to talk to a customer adviser without incurring high costs doing so, Now I have to keep trying and look forward to another high phone bill

Ed says:
9 July 2015

On hold 1hr 20 mins told they coudnt answer my question because they have a backlog, told to phone back. Its impossible to get through. Now 45 mins in my dinner hour no joy. This service is beyond bad

kj says:
24 July 2015

Wish they would play some good music at least. So sick of this repeating tone………..
oing mad. And it has only been 30min…………

Emile says:
27 July 2015

Just had to wait 31 minutes to find out how I’m supposed to pay my NIC now that you can no longer pay by Direct Debit. Ridiculous!

Debby says:
27 July 2015

40 minutes and still waiting, told to expect a wait of 20 minutes. So unfair that we have to pay for these calls. I’m stuck now, can’t get on so would like to hang up, but then I have lost (now 45 minutes) the money spent on the call so far. Shocking.

Barbara says:
28 July 2015

Just under 60 minutes. The person I eventually got was very helpful and it only took 5 minutes to find out my refund had been sent to a wrong account but the wait was excruciating. I asked if this length of wait was normal and she was honest enough to say that at the moment it was. She said they’d not recruited since she joined 10 years ago but had just recruited more people who were in training so the staff were all hopeful of an improvement as they have to deal with unhappy callers. Helpfully also advised me to not accept any suggestion of sending anything in by mail (and not to bother writing to them) as they also have a big backlog of that to open!!

lexii says:
29 July 2015

I was offered compansation for the diabolic customer service they provide. . I’m on the phone now 3rd time today firva different matter. No joy! 19 mins still waiting

Robert C says:
1 August 2015

My wife received nasty letters and a fine from HMRC for failing to reply in time. When asked what they had done with her letter (with the required info) the answer was it was in a big pile and they’d get to it in a month or 2. What utter chaos and how unreasonable. They have since refunded the fine. She had even tried to resolve it by phone a couple of times much earlier – waited over an hour, given wrong information, and she’d submitted the wrong form as that is what they asked her to do. If they were a business I would refuse to deal with them. They have closed the local office but will meet in libraries for a 1-2-1 discussion; sounds like a political move.

Den says:
1 August 2015

Ref my comment dated 8th July

I sent an email to my MP with the complaint that it had cost me over £15 to try and resolve a small issue, did not expect to get a reply, WOW! I did, next I had a phone call from the inland revenue and things were sorted out within a few days and was paid back my phone costs with £15 compensation,
All hope is not lost