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800 years to be able to get through to the tax man.

The annual total amount of time taxpayers spent on the phone waiting to speak to a HM Revenue and Customs adviser has more than doubled to the equivalent of almost 800 years, according to a report by Whitehall’s spending watchdog.

WHAT - 800 YEARS ????????

Those who did get through to an adviser waited an average of almost 23 minutes during 2023-24.

( try and hour and then got cut off - so called again and after 25 minutes, it cut me off - so tried again - and this time after 50 minutes I spoke to someone who was a complete tosser and was as helpful as a used condom - no use at all and left me just as confused. )

The National Audit Office (NAO) found that average call waiting times at HMRC have soared by more than 350% in five years, with increasing numbers of people not getting through in the first place or having their calls terminated, according to an official report that says the public is being “let down”.

It said the quality of customer service provided by HMRC had been “far below” the levels expected in recent years, and that its phone lines in particular were “not delivering”.

Taxpayers cumulatively spent the equivalent of 798 years (7m hours) waiting to speak to an adviser in 2022-23 – more than double the 3.2m hours spent waiting in 2019-20.

The NAO said HMRC’s performance when it came to its phone lines “has continued to decline”, with the department answering only two-thirds (67.2%) of callers’ attempts to speak to an adviser during the first 11 months of the 2023-24 tax year. This was down from 77% two years earlier, and is well below the target of 85%.

Those who did get through to an adviser waited an average of almost 23 minutes in 2023-24 – up sharply from an average of five minutes in 2018-19.

Meanwhile, the report revealed that more taxpayers waiting to speak to someone are having their calls ended by HMRC if the department believes it is the sort of query that can be dealt with online instead.

Related video: Council tax bills could rise by £225 a year under Labour's plan in power: 'Economic self-harm!' (GB News)

Council tax bills could rise by £225 a year under Labour's plan in power: 'Economic self-harm!'

The tax office is trying to cope with demand by encouraging more customers to turn to its digital services first so that queries can be resolved quickly and easily online. But “fiscal drag” had pulled more people into the tax system, while individuals’ tax affairs were getting more complex – for example, because they did more than one job or worked as a freelancer – the report said.

Digital services were better suited to straightforward queries and reporting changes in customers’ circumstances, the authors said.

The report comes less than three months after similarly scathing findings from another official body, parliament’s public accounts committee. The findings may have helped prompt the announcement by the Treasury this week of £51m in funding “so HMRC staff can answer more calls and help customers over the phone”.

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “HMRC’s telephone and correspondence services have been below its target service levels for too long.”

He added that while many of its digital services worked well, “they have not made enough of a difference to customers, some of whom have been caught in a declining spiral of service pressures and cuts”.

The consumer body Which? said the report “paints a sorry picture of a service in serious decline”, while the TaxPayers’ Alliance claimed the situation would improve if ministers ordered civil servants who had been allowed to work from home to get “back behind their desks”.

In response, HMRC accepted that customer service standards relating to its phone lines were “still not where we want them to be”, but added: “We’re making strong progress in our efforts to improve our customer service, and additional funding has been confirmed by the government this week.”

A spokesperson said: “Millions more people used our highly rated online services last year, saving them waiting on the phone and freeing up our advisers to deal with those people who need extra support.”


Don't you just love how the tax office refuses to allow any complaints about its service and keeps on the rhetoric about how many million of happy customers there are that have managed to get some sense out of the web site and they ignore the millions who have had MEGA STRESS and HOURS WASTED just to get through to a member of staff who are then unhelpful and all too often, the system cuts you off even before you get through to someone.

I was 'investigated' decades ago by the tax man and it took them 3 years - yes 3 long years and it came about because they claimed to have lost a document I had sent them concerning an inheritance and by their own admission, they lost it in their own building and not once in 3 years did they think to ask me for a copy as I knew nothing about it.

Absolute incompetency and then when my tax situation was all sorted, they charged me a £5000 penalty because there were some incorrect data from my dippy accountant - and while the tax office fucked it up and made many mistakes, oh my dear I cannot charge THEM for THEIR mistakes as they charge me... oh no... they are impervious to blame or mistake making but made many mistakes which I caught them on.

John Bellamy


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