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The Treasury Committee has asked HMRC to explain the rationale for closing the self assessment helpline for three months
It also wants to know whether HMRC has analysed the cost benefit of closing the service which provides phone support to self assessment taxpayers.
In a letter to HMRC, the chair of the Committee, Harriet Baldwin, asked about the impact the closure will have on taxpayers, whether an analysis and a consultation has taken place, and if the helpline will be reopened should the detriment to taxpayers be greater than expected.
It also criticised the short notice of the closure with HMRC giving taxpayers only two working days to react to the decision with the announcement made on 8 June, days before the service went off line.
The letter also asks HMRC to explain how it will evaluate the trial and whether it will publish the results of the evaluation.
The MPs also want to know if the closure of the helpline is related to HMRC’s homeworking policy or staffing issues, as well as for information on the procedures in place to assist vulnerable taxpayers and those unable to use digital services.
Harriett Baldwin MP, chair of the Treasury Committee said: ‘Given the potentially significant impact closing the self assessment helpline may have on taxpayers, we’re looking for clarification that HMRC has fully considered the costs and benefits of this decision.
‘There are also concerns around the short notice with which this was announced. HMRC must be open, upfront and transparent when making decisions which could impact so many individuals.’
The helpline closed on 12 June and HMRC said it made the decision as demand for the service was much lower in the summer months, when apparently usage is 50% lower than normal. This time last year 1.2m people used the service during the comparable summer period.
All calls to the 0300 200 3310 helpline will be redirected to HMRC’s website over the period to give HMRC time to deal with other more urgent phone enquiries.
HMRC said the move would free up 350 advisers to take urgent calls on other lines and answer taxpayer correspondence.
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.’
The Treasury Committee has asked for a response by 27 June.
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