/ 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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Janetta Wilday says:
3 August 2015

using a mobile I waited 45 minutes…your call will be answered shortly. Then another announcement ‘ we are very busy call back another time goodbye’.
What a shambles.

I too have spent more than 30-40+ mins on the end of the phone waiting for a call girl/boy to try and explain why I am being taxed the way I am. I STILL believe I am owed tax, but everytime I ring (after being on hold for more than 40 mins), I get told the overpayment of tax will be credited in my next months pay, yet I am still waiting 2-3 months later. My companies wages dept, when I can get hold of them, are very unhelpful, and constantly say, “we’re only doing what the tax office tell us”!
I have all my monthly nett and gross pay amounts listed for the past year on a spreadsheet which I would love to show to a real person and ask for a detailed explanation! I did this a few years ago, and the assistant credited me with a cheque for over £100, but without being able to discuss this with someone face to face, and show them proof of overtaxation, I am never able to explain my situation in detail on the phone. Why, oh why won’t the gov’t re-open HMRC centres?! I understand it’s a money saving exercise, as usual, but something has to be done!

Was told it would be a 20 min wait, answered in 39 mins in the end – this was Thursday call started at 13:07

Some well organised outfits allow you to leave your number and then call you back when they have an “advisor” free, instead of leaving you hanging on. Why can’t HMRC organise something like this for their “customers”.

I have used the call back facility offered by Scottish Power and it worked very well.

It’s important that HMRC should sort out its current problems because there is no opportunity to deal with an alternative organisation.

7 August 2015

This is the most appaling service from any Government Department I have expereinced. I sent a letter 4 weeks ago by recorded delivery as I had tried for 5 days hanging on for over 1 hour each time, I have tried again this week another 3 days at over an hour. I have had a letter saying I have a rebate and the account they are paying to I switched a month ago, hence the letter to them. The letter for my refund said I would be credited into my bank in 2-3days over a month ago. My new Bank tell me that HMRC do not acknowledge the switching service and the money is returned to them. what do I do? I am a penshioner and need this over payment but cannot get through to anyone and they do not answer recorded letters or any letters if the complaints on the Web or anything to go by?

IZZY says:
8 August 2015

Ringing for work, on a switchboard waited over an hour eventually gave up and wrote direct to them, this was for p11d and p11db which had been forwarded in april, but if not received fines are applied, to be safe resent all information and posted signed for at other end. Will wait to see if this does the job, or is it a blanket letter they send out to all business and keeping someone in a job, surely in this day and age we have progressed and should be able to monitor

(Edited by moderators: We have edited your comment as it was all written in
capital letters. Please read our commenting guidelines for more information).

applied for my rebate back in May phoned tax at the end of July got through after about 40 minutes to be told my tax is being sorted and I would hear from them by the 2nd August still waiting and it’s the 12th August if I owed tax they would take it straight away

Taxcompliant says:
12 August 2015

I have spent all day trying to work out how to fill in part of my self assessment. The online guidance notes do not give me the answer to a question I have, so I called twice. I hung on for 55 minutes each time before having to hang up as I would be outside the call time limit in my phone package. How does this encourage anyone to do the right thing?

MTAK says:
13 August 2015

As I only have access to a mobile phone to make these calls, I have had to rejoin the queue each time my 25 minutes cut my off.
So far I have waited an accumulated 75 minutes.

Saira says:
13 August 2015

I feel very very upset. Today I have been on hold to HM Revenue for 58 minutes and the lady who picked up was so rude it was disgusting was absolutely inappropriate 🙁

cross says:
14 August 2015

just waited 60 mins and then I had to hang up or my call plan would start charging me. message on their lines only warns of a wait time of over 35 mins… don’t believe them

n metcalf says:
14 August 2015

Now into the 50th minute and still waiting

lee summers says:
14 August 2015

Kept waiting for 50mins before I finally gave up . This is the second mammoth non productive wait this week. All because the penalty notice complaints postcode (according to Post Office ) doesnt exist which explains the return of my registered letters. A complete shambles.

Paul Gragon says:
17 August 2015

Disgusting service waited 3 hours today and never got through to help line
there is just no help on line or web sites

Michael Eaton says:
18 August 2015

I waited 44 minutes last night (after 6pm) when I finally got through to someone they told me my Tax issue had been looked into and I was due a refund but it hadn’t been calculated yet, this is after I sent my P85 in 6 weeks ago and it had only been dealt with yesterday! As I don’t live in the UK any more this costs me a lot of money – probably more than the refund I’m due!

Gave up holding and emailed them via my Self-assessment login “ask us a question”. This usually works.

Good tip. My problem is that I can’t activate my self assessment service because the codes are incompatible with my profile [or something like that] so I have to speak to somebody. I have tried three times and the problem just keeps going round in circles. I shall end up doing it on paper as previously I expect

Phoned tax last night 7-15pm on the line for 45 minutes only to be told at 8pm sorry can’t take your call right now tax office closed this is disgusting treatment.Applied for my tax rebate 28th may phoned them in July got through after 40 min wait to be told your tax will be sorted by 2nd August still waiting on 20th August hope I get it before Christmas.How can a government department get away with treating the public like this.If I owed them tax they would take it straight away and are they paying U.S. interest for keeping our money so long

MilkedByTaxMan says:
20 August 2015

I waited for 57 minutes during a 30 minute break, safe to say the boss wasnt happy. Didn’t even get through, ended up being cut off.

What an absolute joke, very quick to take your money but a complete wind up when you need to have your say.

Another government cover up.

Jane Mitchell says:
20 August 2015

Same as one of the previous e mails. I waited 42 minutes and then was told that the office was closed. I am trying to appeal an underpayment of tax on behalf of a deceased relative. They will not take my call on the agents phone line

Calum darge says:
21 August 2015

I have been waiting for over 40 minutes to get an answer from there call centre the times people are having to wait to get an answer is f*****g shocking and out of order considering the poeple contacting them are tax payers f*****g shocking f**k the english parlament!