/ 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

Loading ... Loading ...
Tracey says:
14 January 2016

Waited 20 minutes, cant afford to wait for longer , will have to give up now as I have to work!

Dr R A Barnes says:
10 February 2016

Tried to ring HMRC Help Line 3 times at different times of the day but gave up after 40 -45 minutes wait on each occasion. Tried to get in early and rang at 08.00 on the dot but still kept waiting 40 minutes! I can only assume a minimum 40 minute wait is programmed into their system. Decided to write instead. Quicker and much less hassle.

kirstie mckillop says:
21 December 2018

waiting 20 minutes yesterday tried again at 9am this morning no answer constant queues and I ca not afford to keep calling. tax code has been changed and I am paying almost £220 tax. leaving me really short for important bills

tina says:
10 January 2019

even when I got through, after waiting for 23 minutes, no one could help. They aren’t aware of any exemptions for VAT digital payments even though it’s on their website. I then got phoned by someone who was going to call back… they didn’t. I then sent an email on the website.. no one got back to me. Today I phoned three times, cut off twice, left on hold once. Sent another message on line. My husband is terminally ill, we are old and finishing the business this year, we can’t pay for software and new hardware and training It’s daft and the worry and non-replies is really making us quite ill at present.

Liz McEwan says:
30 April 2019

I have tried 5 times yesterday and this morning to get through. After answering all the nonsense questions finally just told that they cannot take my call and please call back later….it is just ridiculous. They simply obviously do not have the staff to cope.

Sheila Player says:
27 January 2020

what a disgraceful service i have been on hold for nearly an hour

I am assuming that with the self-assessment tax return deadline at the end of this week HMRC are genuinely experiencing a high number of calls at the moment. I hope that is the only excuse for the bad response times.


Friday, I held on for over an hour and found it was the wrong department. It had been verified that I had an ‘Enquiry’ that ‘No’ I do not want to pay now. Thought great when informed I was going to be be put through but…..left hanging with the suicide music for over 45 minutes and had to give up. Today I am still hanging to the suicide music. Firstly, I was left on hold for over an hour, explained the situation and was ‘put through’ hanging again to the suicide music for another 50 minutes. Eventually put through but he sounded like he was half asleep, said he is going to sort it out… hang on, still listening to the suicide music…

Rita – Was this a call to HMRC? Which department were you trying to contact?

have tried every day at various time waited about 1hr each time .still no ans.
so can anyone help me , how to get through oh i have email as well and sent a letter
any advise would be grateful

Janette Butterworth says:
20 April 2021

I’ve tried to get through to them twice within the past week. The first time I was hanging on for more than an hour and then it was 5 O’clock, when they close – so I had to hang up. I am on to them as we speak now, been on 40 minutes and no sign of them answering 🙁

I retired in March 2021 and contacted North Yorkshire County Council, who pay my pension, in Feb so that I would not pay tax on my April pension payment. They said that HMRC would inform them about my changes. April pension payment included tax and I queried this with NYCC. They said they had been sent 18,000 tax codes by letter from HMRC and did not have the resources to open them and had asked them to send them by the normal format and suggested I contact HMRC. I have tried contacitng HMRC 4 times on the phone and waited over 20 mins each time before either giving up or being cut off. This is a very poor level of service. I am a Which member and support anything that can be done to improve HMRC call response time

Andrew Lucas says:
11 August 2021

I have tried to ring HMRC four times over the last few days, the number I have used (0300 200 3300) was taken directly from their website. On each occasion the telephone has dialled, but having done so, it simply hangs with not a sound being heard.
I have now written a letter in the hope they will be a little more responsive.

Jo Harvey says:
25 January 2022

I have tried a number of times to sort out a time to pay agreement via my HMRC self assessment gateway login, but it says that I am not eligible despite meeting the criteria and must call. I have today made 2 calls to the HMRC, the first for an hour before giving up and asking the online advisor if I could arrange a time to pay agreement, only to be told that I could not. I am still on hold with that dreadful music and have been for the last 1hour and 25 minutes. I just want to get the blooming thing sorted before the deadline!!

I am currently on hold to HMRC and have been for 1hour 56 minutes. I just have the ‘thanks for continuing to hold an advisor will be with you as soon as possible’ on a loop. Due to work hours this is the only time I will get a chance to speak with them. It’s a Friday afternoon at 4.30pm and I’m still waiting to speak to an advisor….

Cat Pat — This happens every year at this time just as the closing date for the filing of self-assessment tax returns arises. HMRC is again allowing an extra two months without penalty for filing an on-line return this tax year. The deadline is now 1 April 2022 [but if an on-line return was not submitted previously allow an extra twenty working days in advance to register]. The final date for lodging paper tax returns was 31 October 2021 after which penalties can be charged.

@Cat Pat: Due to work hours this is the only time I will get a chance to speak with them

Wow! You’ve been working non-stop since 6 April 2021? You’ll definitely have some tax to pay.

David says:
21 March 2022

I am owed a lot of money as they have made a mistake with my Tax Credits, but everytime I call, I get told to call back another time and get cut off.
Not good enough.