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  • Writer's pictureSara White

Call waiting times to be included on HMRC helplines

Following a trial, messages on the estimated time it will take to speak to an adviser were extended to more HMRC helplines from 4 July

Sara White, Editor, Accountancy Daily

The message will be played at the start of the call so taxpayers can make an informed choice about whether they want to hang on, use HMRC’s online services or call back another time.

During the trial period, it was clear that callers abandoned calls as the average wait time halved from 40 to 20 minutes. HMRC did not provide figures on how many callers refused to wait for a call handler and used alternative HMRC services to resolve queries, or called back later when lines could have been less busy.

Call wait time messages are based on the previous day’s average and will be included on the following helplines:

  • child benefit; 

  • Construction Industry Scheme;

  • employers;

  • National Insurance;

  • online services;

  • tax credits; and

  • VAT. 

In the update in the latest stakeholder digest, HMRC said: ‘Expected call wait times are already given on the PAYE helpline. This has proved successful with a significant number of customers choosing to leave the queue and resolve their query elsewhere.

‘We’ve been able to take more calls from customers who still need to speak to us, and wait times reduced from 40 minutes at the start of the trial, to consistently below 20 minutes.

‘We want to be open and transparent about how long our customers can expect to wait and encourage the use of our digital services which are quicker and easier than calling us.’

Late last month HMRC announced plans to shut the self assessment helpline over the summer and transferred the 350 call handlers to other telephone services during the three-month closure. HMRC argued that the decision was taken to improve overall customer service levels which have come under fire as agents, accountants and the public have faced lengthy waits to access HMRC call centres.

HMRC is in the midst of a major back office IT upgrade, which involves moving more services to cloud-based platforms to improve response times.

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