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HMRC has closed the self assessment tax helpline for three months over the summer to focus call center resources on dealing with other problem calls
All calls to the helpline on 0300 200 3310 will be redirected to digital services over the period to give HMRC time to deal with other more urgent phone enquiries.
The helpline has closed for three months from Monday 12 June until Monday 4 September. During this time HMRC said it will ‘trial directing SA queries from the helpline to the department’s digital services, including its online guidance, digital assistant and webchat’.
HMRC will increase the advisers available on webchat, the online service helpline and the extra support team helpline.
Demand for the self assessment helpline is 50% lower during the summer, according to HMRC. The self assessment helpline receives around 5m calls each year, with nearly 4m people staying on through the recorded messages to speak to an HMRC adviser according to the HMRC quarterly performance figures.
In the period June to August 2022, broadly the equivalent of this year’s period of closure, nearly 1.2m people called the helpline, with over 900,000 people staying on to try to speak to someone.
Tax advisers and accountants have complained for months about the quality of service offered by HMRC with long waits on phone lines and a reduction in the quality of HMRC services.
This is not the first time HMRC has limited access to helplines, but it is the first time it has completely shut down a service for a significant period,leaving taxpayers who are due to make tax payments on 31 July 2023 with no means of contacting HMRC on the phone to deal with any queries they might have.
HMRC said the move would free up 350 advisers to take urgent calls on other lines and answer taxpayer correspondence. If the call handlers focus on urgent calls, HMRC said these advisers would be able to answer around 6,600 calls each day, ensuring more taxpayers with pressing enquiries would be able to speak to an adviser.
The helpline will re-open on 4 September this year so taxpayers can receive support in the five months running up to the self assessment deadline on 31 January 2024.
HMRC has been trialing various phone line closures recently and is committed to pushing people to use digital services rather than speaking to a call handler.
Angela MacDonald, deputy CEO at HMRC, said: ‘We continually review our services to see how they can best serve the public and we are taking steps to improve them.
‘A seasonal SA helpline will make more of our expert advisers available where they are most needed during the summer months.
‘Our online services, including the HMRC app, are quick and easy to use and have been significantly improved. I urge customers to explore these fully before deciding to wait to speak to us on the phone.’
In line with the digital first approach, HMRC said it would ‘continue to transform its online services, increasing their capabilities and ease of use so they become the default option for the vast majority of customers’.
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