A national newspaper has reported in the last few days that tax payers could face a wait for nearly half an hour when calling the HMRC. The Low Incomes Tax Reforms campaign group did a mystery shop last week, making three telephone calls posing as a PAYE caller, a pensioner and a tax credit claimant.
The Inland Revenue has promised to answer 91% of calls within 31 seconds, but the campaign group found it took an average of 29 minutes for a call to be picked up.
According to the comments from the public following the article, this is an huge understatement. Many waited far longer and eventually gave up. The trick could be to write to them and ask them to call you, one reader suggests.
It could cost nearly £12 to wait to speak to them. The cost of each call from a mobile, at 40p a minute to an 0845 number, would have worked out at £11.60. The Low Incomes Tax Reforms Group said the waiting flew in the face of the 1997 promise to answer most calls within 30 seconds. This doesn’t take into account the sheer inconvenience of trying to find time to spend at least half an hour on the telephone hoping for a response.
However, HMRC believes this is unfair due to the small sample of people. A spokesman said: ‘HMRC handles around 60million telephone calls every year. During busy periods, there will be times when customers will find it more difficult to get through.
‘We are working hard to improve contact centre service levels and have made good progress. We are managing busy periods better by deploying extra people to deal with short-term increases in demand.’
Readers’ comment indicate this does not appear to reflect the experiences of those trying to contact HMRC during the day and evening.
In 2010 HMRC admitted that nearly six million people had been paying the wrong tax for years due to being issued with incorrect codes. About 1.4 million people had bills for an average of £1,500 of underpaid tax for 2008/9 and 2009/10.
This, this year HMRC had to extend the self-assessment tax deadline when staff went on strike over the appointment of private companies to run call-handling trials in two contact centres.
Have you had a tax nightmare? At Vincent & Co we give you practical advice and help you through disputes with HMRC, as well as ensuring your tax codes are accurate.