Money Wellness
Illustration of a women sitting at her laptop making a phone call on her mobile phone
category iconWork
calendar icon15 May 2024

HMRC callers left on hold for 800 years

People spent a total of 798 years on hold to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in the space of just 12 months, according to a new report.

The National Audit Office (NAO) says waiting times have more than doubled since 2019-20, despite HMRC encouraging people to use its online services first.

Taxpayers spent seven million hours waiting to speak to an adviser in 2022-23.

During the first 11 months of the 2023-24 tax year, just two-thirds of calls were answered, after an average wait time of 23 minutes – compared to a five-minute wait time in 2018-19.

Don’t leave me hanging on the telephone

As part of a cost-cutting move, HMRC wants people to use its digital services to try and solve queries before ringing.

But NAO said the tax collector’s move to a digital-first service has not reduced calls and written correspondence “as much as it expected”.

It explained more people have been pulled into the tax system, placing additional demands on HMRC.

According to the report, advisers are spending longer on fewer calls, with just 43.5% of people satisfied with the service. Satisfaction levels rise to 63% for those who actually get through to HMRC.

It also revealed HMRC has ended phone calls when it thinks the query can be solved online.

Below target service levels for too long

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

He added:

“While many of its digital services work 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.”

Responding, HMRC accepted customer service standards relating to phone enquiries are “still not where we want them to be”.

A spokesperson said the tax collector is “making strong progress in our efforts to improve our customer service” while additional funding has been confirmed by the government.

The spokesperson added:

“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.”

If you need help

With this in mind, it might be faster and easier to talk to your employer first about any pay or tax code questions. Or you might find what you’re looking for in our guides, such as:

How to check and understand your tax code

National minimum wage

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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