Report reveals HMRC service wait times for taxpayers

HMRC has been heavily criticised following a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) that revealed taxpayers spent million hours on hold in 2023/24, equating to 798 years.

This figure has more than doubled from 3.2m hours in 2019/20. During this period, HMRC answered 22% fewer calls and spent 6% less time on calls, a decline attributed to complex tax issues, taxpayers seeking updates, and increased staff sickness.

Sickness rates at HMRC were notably higher in 2023/24, with staff taking 11 sick days annually, compared to the civil service average of eight. The report highlighted HMRC's failure to meet customer service targets over the past five years, partly due to tax threshold freezes that have expanded the taxpayer base and heightened demand for helpline services. Furthermore, 72% of the 38m calls received were "failure demand"-unnecessary queries prompted by HMRC's errors or delays.

HMRC's internal audits revealed that advisers had not fully adhered to procedures in one-third of cases, leading to additional follow-up calls. Although there has been an effort to transition more services online, with a third of calls redirected to digital platforms, only 28% of users were satisfied with this service. The NAO warned that this digital shift has not significantly reduced helpline pressure, as many taxpayers are unaware of or unable to resolve their issues online.

Recently, HMRC reversed a decision to reduce helpline availability after a backlash from MPs and accountancy groups. The Treasury has since allocated an additional £51m to help HMRC improve call handling.

Get in touch to discuss your finances.