Economy

HMRC says tax payers should ‘help themselves’ by using online services

HM Revenue & Customs has admitted that its customer service levels for taxpayers using the telephone or post to reach it remain ‘below [its] service standards.’

HMRC said an increase in the number of taxpayers, and a higher proportion of people with complicated queries, had affected its post and telephone services. 

In the 2022 to 2023 tax year, HMRC said it improved the proportion of correspondence it turned around in 15 days to 72.7 per cent, up from 45.5 per cent the previous year. 

In its latest performance update, HMRC said more taxpayers could ‘help themselves’ by using its online services.  

Below par: HM Revenue & Customs said its phone and post services remain sub-standard

The proportion of callers wanting to speak to an adviser at HMRC on the telephone who were able to do so averaged at 71.4 per cent between October and December 2023.

While conceding it needs to do more to improve its telephone and postal services, HMRC said there was ‘more scope for our customers to help themselves’ by using its online services.

It said: ‘More than 3million of the phone calls we received in 2022 to 2023 were about just three things that can easily be done online: resetting a password, getting your PAYE tax code, and finding your National Insurance number. It takes the equivalent of 500 advisers to answer those calls.

‘It means those people who really need to speak to an HMRC adviser – including those with complex queries, the digitally excluded and the particularly vulnerable – can struggle to get the help they need.

‘The only way we can meet those service levels for customers who really need to speak to us, is by further improving and expanding our digital and online services and continuing to direct even more people to use them.’

HMRC is aiming to reduce the volume of contact through phone and post by tax payers by 30 per cent by the end of 2025, against levels seen by the end of 2022.

In the 2022 to 2023 financial year, HMRC collected £788.8billion in tax, representing an increase of 10.2 per cent on the previous year.

HMRC said the money from tax payers ‘is spent by the Government on schools, the NHS, police and other essential services we all rely on.’

HMRC claimed its compliance work secured £34billion worth of tax revenue during the period, that would otherwise have been lost to the exchequer through error, fraud and other forms of non-compliance. 

It added: ‘We’re focused on delivering a modern, efficient service that makes it easier to pay tax and harder to get it wrong.

‘That means improving guidance and enhancing and expanding our digital services – online via Gov.uk and through the app – to give customers the quick and easy ways to manage their tax affairs that they expect.’

According to HMRC, between January and December 2023 there were 80million logins to the HMRC app by 3.3million unique users, marking a login growth rate of over 70 per cent when compared with the previous year. 

It claimed ‘digital assistant interactions’ increased from 1.9million in 2022 to 2023 to 4.8million so far in 2023 to 2024.

This is Money has been charting the woes of tax payers struggling to contact HMRC or facing unexpected hefty tax bills. 

Service levels down a drastic downturn during the pandemic. 

A report by the Public Accounts Committee published last year found post and call handling had fallen significantly during the pandemic. 

In 2021 to 2022, HMRC responded to 39.5 per cent of post within 15 days, compared to 70.3 per cent the previous year.

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