The continuing problems with service levels at HMRC can only be resolved by accountants, businesses and tax agents using online instead of phone calls, Treasury minister says
In a written response to the leading accountancy bodies, Victoria Atkins MP (pictured), financial secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘Some of HMRC’s customer service levels during 2022-23 have not been where they want them to be.
She added: ‘HMRC officials are sorry to those who have been affected.
‘HMRC have seen unexpected demand for their services and strains on their resource, which has affected performance.’
In a letter thin on details, there were no solutions to the ongoing service problems, which have deteriorated substantially since the pandemic, but the minister stressed that HMRC expects to see a third of enquiries dealt with directy by taxpayers by finding the information on HMRC’s website.
The institutes wrote to Atkins on 1 March and have only just received a response.
Atkins blamed the poor service levels on three issues including being overwhelmed by thousands of claims for tax refunds from a small number of agents, IT issues as HMRC made essential upgrades to improve system security and resilience in the future; and some resources being diverted to urgent priorities, such as providing support for Ukraine visa processing.
‘The key to reducing waiting times for customers and improving customer satisfaction even further is offering an easy and simple online service – one where it is much easier to go digital than to telephone or write to HMRC,’ Atkins said.
‘Between now and 2030, HMRC will build a digital tax system that does more to help customers get their tax and payments right first time, reduces error and fraud and fits seamlessly with the way people run their businesses and their lives.
‘HMRC are investing in high quality digital services that will help taxpayers get things right first time. This includes Single Customer Accounts that will eventually enable over 45 million taxpayers to view all their tax affairs in one place and complete everyday tasks, potentially reducing customer contact by telephone and post by 30 per cent.
‘However, HMRC will still be available for those who need them, such as for complex queries or those who have difficulty using digital services.’
There has been criticism of the quality of phone lines with many callers waiting for nearly 30 minutes to be answered, while thousands of calls are simply cut off every month.
Atkins said: ‘HMRC is currently responding to around three quarters of correspondence within 15 working days and successfully answering about 70,000 calls a day. Their customer satisfaction is consistently around 80%.’