£97m is the estimated cost to callers trying to get through to HM Revenue & Customs for tax help and advice last year. Is it acceptable? We think not.
As some of you will know, over the past two years our research has tracked HMRC call waiting times, showing time and time again just how difficult it’s been for you to get through to HMRC.
Well today the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed between 2014-2015 call waiting times tripled, with the estimated total cost to callers being around £97m.
Call waiting times
It’s no surprise to us that HMRC call waiting times worsened last year. In December we ran a poll on Which? Conversation asking ‘How long has HMRC kept you hanging on the line?’. The results of which revealed that 26% had been kept hanging on for 31-45 minutes, a further 26% for 46-60 minutes and 24% for over an hour.
As M.Darlington explained:
‘I selected 30 mins [in the poll] as the longest time kept waiting only because I gave up after 30 mins each time. My sister, niece and I tried for a day and a half to get through.’
Each caller’s time is worth an average of £17 per hour, according to the NAO.
And so based on this, the calculated cost of calling HMRC alone last year was around £10m, while hold times racked up about £66m. And actually talking to HMRC comes in at around £21m.
Call waiting times peaked when HMRC made a hopeful bid to push callers to their digital services, this also aligned with a premature cut to its call handling workforce.
These long waiting times are simply unacceptable, and these NAO calculated costs only add insult to injury. It’s clear that improvement is needed.
Improvement is needed
We’re urging HMRC to continue to work hard to tackle their customer service and reduce call-waiting times. Some progress has been made, with the HMRC online helpdesk facility and the announcement of digital accounts for online self-assessment tax returns. But it’s clear that more is needed.
Until there are viable alternatives to ringing to discuss tax affairs, there’s no choice but to wait, which is simply unfair on those callers who are in urgent need of tax help and advice.
So have you tried calling HMRC recently? How long did it take for you to speak to HMRC? Would you like to see more alternatives to calling?