HMRC abandons 10-minute answering on Agent Dedicated Line
As HMRC struggles to deal with demand for telephone support, it will drop the 10-minute call answering target from the agent dedicated line for accountants
Sara White, Editor, Accountancy Daily
From 2 October, HMRC will completely remove the 10-minute service level on the agent dedicated line (ADL) and instead will inform callers of the expected waiting time.
HMRC said this means that callers ‘may wait slightly longer than normal to speak to an adviser on the ADL, especially at peak times’.
At the moment the service handles nearly 1.2 million calls a year, a third of which could be resolved using online services.
An HMRC spokesperson told Accountancy Daily: ‘We must use our resources effectively to meet the needs of all our customers.
‘We strongly encourage agents to use our digital services wherever possible, to allow our expert advisers to help agents who require one-to-one support. Last year, more than a third of calls answered on the Agent Dedicated Line were progress chasing queries, the vast majority of which can be answered online.’
Last year, more than 388,000 calls answered by advisors on the ADL were progress chasing calls – 36% of all calls to the line. HMRC said that ‘agents have a range of tools they can use, such as the service dashboard or Where’s My Reply tool, which means they don’t need to wait to speak to us on the phone to get these types of query answered in the vast majority of instances’.
Other common calls the ADL receives which can be dealt with online include enquiries about self assessment registration and deregistration, employment history requests and confirmation of tax codes for the current year.
HMRC said the decision followed consultation with a range of stakeholders, including professional bodies who represent agents, about how to improve its current performance and service provided on the line.
‘The professional bodies who represent agents told us that a dedicated phone line remains top of the list of desirables. We want to reassure you that we remain committed to providing the right level of support for agents and that the ADL will remain available,’ HMRC wrote in an email update to agents.
It added: ‘We know that a high quality of service is important to you, and removing the 10-minute call answering target will allow us to focus on improving the quality of service we offer.’
Once the 10-minute service level is removed, HMRC will provide information on call waiting times on the ADL, allowing agents to make a decision based on that information as to whether to continue to wait in the queue, call back at another time or use a digital option to resolve their query.
‘The introduction of information on call waiting times will help you to decide whether to call back later if the wait times are lengthy, or even try out digital options like ‘check when you can expect a reply from HMRC’, which we will continue to promote in our hold messaging.’
In addition, ADL users will not be able to deal with PAYE through the ADL and instead anyone calling with a PAYE query will be re-routed to a dedicated PAYE adviser, although they will not be able to handle self assessment issues, so callers would then be told to ‘call the ADL back if you have queries on other subjects’.
In addition to the email communication on the change, the latest Agent Update Issue 112, also sets out details of the reduction in service levels.
HMRC is also considering the introduction of a webchat facility to the ADL, which is ‘in its early stages and we will keep you updated on progress’.
It also working on further iterative changes on the ADL to improve the efficiency of the service.
In line with the digital drive to move tax transactions and interaction with tax officials online, HMRC said it was ‘continuing to improve and enhance our digital services for agents such as income record viewer, agent dashboard and the check when you can expect a reply from HMRC tool, so more agents have confidence in using them as an alternative to calling us’.
‘These changes are being made as part of the commitments set out in the HMRC Charter to support agents and their businesses, recognising the value tax agents bring to the tax administration system, HMRC said.
‘We are also committed to our ongoing engagement with a range of stakeholders including the professional bodies who represent agents, as we work to improve our agent dedicated services.’