HMRC’s customer service is plummeting to ‘record levels’ and taxpayers are fed up, MPs say

  • It took an average of 16 minutes and 24 seconds for the tax officer to answer the phone
  • This is an increase of 4 minutes compared to the previous financial year
  • 62.7% of callers waited more than 10 minutes to speak to an advisor

Customer service at the Tax Authorities has fallen to an all-time low as taxpayers face increasing delays.

HMRC’s service levels have continued to deteriorate over the past year, according to a Public Accounts Committee report published today.

In 2022-2023, it took an average of 16 minutes and 24 seconds for an advisor to answer the phone, compared to 12 minutes and 22 seconds in the previous financial year. in 2021-22.

Taxpayers are waiting even longer to speak to an HMRC adviser, MPs say

In 2022-2023, 62.7 percent of callers waited more than ten minutes to speak to an advisor, compared to 46.3 percent in 2021-2022.

The increased demand for HMRC services is in large part due to the increased number of people paying tax as a result of tax barriers.

HMRC told the PAC inquiry that it did not have the resources to meet rising demand for its telephone and postal services at the expected levels.

It has set itself the goal of reducing the number of incoming telephone and postal contacts by 30 percent between 2024 and 2025 compared to 2021 and 2022.

It says that if it can achieve this reduction, it must have the resources to meet its service standards.

However, HMRC has already faced criticism from accountants and business owners who have struggled with the transition.

Last summer, the tax authorities announced it would close the self-assessment helpline for three months to try to redirect questions from the helpline to the department’s digital services.

In December, HMRC closed its phones again ahead of the January 31 self-assessment deadline.

This Is Money has written extensively about HMRC delays and the impact of the closure of both the self-assessment and VAT registration helplines.

The committee said it had received an “unprecedented” number of comments about the tax authorities’ performance, “demonstrating the level of taxpayers’ exasperation with the quality of service and the impact on business.”

A number of responses identified deteriorating customer service and increased delays as a major issue for businesses.

The PAC has called on the Treasury and HMRC to ensure the department is ‘adequately resourced in both the short and longer term’ to meet service standards.

While staff cuts have done little to boost recruitment, insiders have told This is Money that staff retention and lack of training are behind HMRC’s problems.

HMRC ‘struggling to cope’

The increase in the number of taxpayers and the complexity of tax matters means HMRC is ‘struggling to cope’, the report said.

Tax revenues were at a record high of £814 billion in 2022-23, but the department still fell £2 billion short of its £36 billion compliance return target, which is the additional revenue that would otherwise have been lost without the intervention of HMRC.

The PAC’s report also shows that the number of criminal prosecutions by HMRC has fallen significantly, from 691 in 2019-2020 to 240 in 2022-2023.

HMRC says it is ‘increasingly selective’ when it comes to prosecution, partly due to backlogs in the justice system, but the PAC is concerned it is sending the wrong message.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said: ‘Nearly eight years have passed since our committee challenged HMRC over the message from its phone lines, namely one of the most streamed pieces of music in the country.

“Our latest performance report unfortunately illustrates a continuing story of service decline. ‘Our report also raises serious questions about whether HMRC is striking the right balance between civil and criminal prosecutions.

‘Our findings show a steep decline in the latter, while we see HMRC going to great lengths to challenge people in court over their employment status.

“Our committee has heard the frustration of the many taxpayers and organizations who provided loud and clear evidence to support our investigation. HMRC would do well to do the same.”