HMRC to close self-assessment helpline for three months

HMRC has introduced that it’s going to pilot a brand new ‘seasonal mannequin’ for its self-assessment helpline in an try to alleviate strain on its cellphone strains and prioritise pressing queries.

The initiative, set to run for 3 months from twelfth June 2023, will experiment with directing self-assessment queries from the helpline to HMRC’s digital companies, which embrace its on-line steering, digital assistant and webchat.

The overwhelming majority of self-assessment clients use HMRC’s on-line companies, with 97% submitting on-line, the tax authority mentioned.

HMRC has confronted vital strain to enhance service ranges in latest months, having downsized its customer support workforce from 25,500 to 19,500 prior to now 5 years attributable to its push in direction of digitalisation.

However the contemporary initiative, in response to the income physique, will unencumber 350 advisers to reply round 6,600 “pressing” self-assessment calls every day.

“A seasonal helpline will make extra of our professional advisers obtainable the place they’re most wanted throughout the summer season months,” mentioned Angela MacDonald, deputy CEO and second everlasting secretary at HMRC.

“Our on-line companies, together with the HMRC app, are fast and straightforward to make use of and have been considerably improved. I urge clients to discover these totally earlier than deciding to attend to talk to us on the cellphone.”

However in response to Seb Maley, CEO at IR35 consultancy agency Qdos, the timing of the brand new pilot scheme is inappropriate and merely “highlights chaos” on the tax workplace.

“We’re in a price of dwelling disaster, the self-employed are being hit with tax rise after tax rise and as a substitute of accelerating the help obtainable, HMRC reduces it.

“HMRC can costume it up nonetheless its needs, however closing the cellphone strains for self-employed taxpayers is barely going to lead to issues.”

Maley additionally argues that the transfer runs counter to HMRC pleas earlier this yr for self-employed staff to file and pay their tax payments, calling the plans “illogical”.

In equally essential style, Chris Etherington, non-public consumer tax associate at RSM UK argues that the Summer season pilot scheme may pile undue strain onto the cellphone strains once they reopen in September.

In line with HMRC, the self-assessment helpline receives far fewer calls over the Summer season, with calls round 50% greater between January and April in contrast with June to August.

However Etherington argues {that a} summer season closure is prone to worsen the already in depth ready instances initially and finish of the yr and trigger some taxpayers to face a “bleak winter”.

“The closure may come as an unwelcome shock to many taxpayers and might be a short-sighted transfer. HMRC already struggles to take care of the extent of cellphone calls that come by means of within the winter forward of the 31 January deadline, and this might make the issue worse.”

Taking a extra optimistic stance, Glenn Collins, ACCA UK’s head of technical and strategic engagement, says he’s “happy HMRC is taking a look at all of the choices to deal with the present poor efficiency”, praising the tax authority for being “versatile and adaptable”

Nonetheless, he goes on to echo Etherington’s views, stating the “stress” between HMRC urging taxpayers to file their returns early while closing one of many key mechanisms for this.

“It’s all very effectively selecting the bottom demand level to pressure individuals onto a platform which many aren’t snug with, however not if you happen to’re going to attempt to improve demand by encouraging early submitting on the similar time.

“HMRC won’t be able to successfully measure the change in behaviour, as the choice has been eliminated. What HMRC ought to be specializing in is the proportion of queries settled in a single interplay, this isn’t at the moment adequate and the worry is that this may increasingly worsen.”

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