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The costs of calling HMRC

We have received a letter (agents copy) from HMRC, received 20 days after post date, but that is another story!

I tried to call the person who sent the letter only to discover the 0845 no on the letter is a general enquiry number (not a direct no) and ended up in the inevitable queue.

If I use our normal telephone I never know the costs per minute, but as I was using Skype I noticed the cost was 8p per minute! A 10 to 20 minute wait isn't unusual so the cost will probably be over £1, in addition to the time I have wasted while sitting in the queue.

Do HMRC gain any income from these calls? If so, maybe the queues are there for a reason, ie. to provide additional funds for HMRC?

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I agree

A total con.  Shouldn't be allowed.  If they must use a non geographical number, it should be an 0300 number.  I don't know if they make anything out of it, but I wouldn't be surprised.

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Use the dedicated agent's line

HMRC has provided a dedicated line to be used by agents calling HMRC. It's still an 0845 number, but you don't usually have to hold on for long and you also get someone who knows a little bit about tax on the other end.  I've never had to wait for 15 - 20 minutes on this.

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check

www.saynoto0870.com 

for alternative landline numbers - they very often work

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Write to your MP

I did. He has written back to me saying he has written to the Treasury about it, and will get back to me when he gets a response.

The more of us that write, the better.

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A total con

and just the kind of underhand sneaky trick to be expected from HMRC which gets more like a branch of the mafia every day.

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Use a landline

0845 are charged at local rate costs on a landline (many packages include them foc). Hardly a con.

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@ Paul

Yes, they are supposedly at "local" rates, but my supplier (and I believe, many others) only includes real geographical numbers in their free "local" package.  0845 costs several pence per minute.  Maybe not a fortune, but still an unnecessary rip off - particularly if HMRC are making money out of keeping us on the phone.

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Naive

Maybe I am a little naive, but I thought the telephone number on the letter was a direct line (they usually are!).

I do use 'SayNoTo0870' regularly, but thought a direct line wouldn't be on the list.

We live and learn! Thanks for the tips, everyone.

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Not included in package

0845 aren't included in my landline package which is free for all normal 01/02/03 numbers. The other thing to do is look at the HMRC website and use the number which is for international callers - that is usually a normal landline rather than 0845 number.

Sid

Sudipta Moore - Director, Moore Accountancy For Your Personal and Small Business Accounting Needs http://www.mooreaccountancy.co.uk

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"Hardly a con"

0845 numbers are not charged at local rates and always generate money for someone who is not the caller. Definitely a con.

Some people describe their 0845 numbers as lo-call numbers as this makes them sound like local call rates, which they are not.

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why?

Why bother ringing them at all - you never get any answers out of the clowns.

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It a reception desk

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As above

If it's about a client and the number the quote is clearly a general line the ring the Dedicated Agent Line. Th generally gets through pretty much straight away. They did get a bit sniffy when I used it re my own tax a while back.

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Free calls are worse

It's even worse calling an 0800 from a mobile - you still get charged the standard rate even though the caller is supposed to pay towards the call.

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Be careful what accusations you make
Chatman Wrote:

"0845 numbers are not charged at local rates and always generate money for someone who is not the caller. Definitely a con.

Some people describe their 0845 numbers as lo-call numbers as this makes them sound like local call rates, which they are not."

I don't know where you're getting your information from that allows you to use the word "always", and "definitely a con" so freely. Many 0845 numbers *are* charged at local rates and if your phone service provider's free local package won't accept that then maybe you should take that up with your phone service provider. Ask them why local 0845 numbers aren't included in their calls package? If they aren't then your provider is simply making extra money out of you. Who is doing the conning?

We make nothing out of supplying our customers with a local-rate 0845 number for telephone support, and I find the slur that we're conning our customers offensive.

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HRC - Call costs

Hi, one alternative to reducing the call cost is 18185.com. They currently chg 5p conn'n and 3p/min for 0845. We use them for all our calls, std l/line is only 5p conn'n no call time chg.

 

 

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0845 or not

I'd agree with earlier posts that using the agent number is usually quick and painless.  A lot of offices (but not all) do give direct lines, which helps.

As for the cost of 0845 numbers, whether described as local or low cost, there will always be a charge for ringing these unless your telephone provider specifically includes them as part of your "free landline calls".  Some providers require an additional payment per month to tag on this service, but it's normally only a couple of pounds, so up to you if you think it is worth your while to do this.

As for communication with HMRC, I can't wait until they drag themselves kicking and screaming in to this century, and start to use email across the board! Oh, was that a flying pig just outside my window...........................

 

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you what ?

0845 numbers are charged at local rates, so for most people will be cheaper than calling any other sort of number. Some options  - some BT plans for instance - make the call free.

It seems frankly a bit hard to slag off HMRC for providing a service. If you will insist on calling from mobiles it will cost you, but it's not HMRC ripping you off. 

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So why does HMRC not use 0800

THey make very few mistakes and all the letters forms etc are really easy to understand so the costs would be very low.

Reality is something different.  HMRC use the lame excuse that by using an 0845 number that it can be re-directed to the least busy call centre.  But that does not hold water any more an 01... number can be directed just as easily.

And yes larger firms do get a payment for an 0845 number.

Perhaps having read the above we should all resort to letters because we know the costs.

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Use bypass provider

08xx numbers should be banned on government departments. OFCOM has allocate 03xx for this purpose!. Tax does have to be taxing.

As for 0800 I just use bypass provider, e.g.  www.qxcall.co.uk/08xx  which  let you dial a standard number (0370 437 0800) and then the 0800.   You can also do bypass for 0845, 0870 etc (cheaper but not free, of course).

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That tells you how IT literate HMRC is

 That tells you how IT literate (in the real world sense) those highly paid civil servants are.  Companies are redirecting 01 numbers to India call centre for ages now, can't see any problem for HMRC to use it.

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Sigh...

...although it is unfair to criticise HMRC for using 0845 numbers when the people profiting from it are the telephone companies not HMRC, I can remember the days not that long ago, when you could call your local (actually in the same town too) tax office, speak to someone you knew through previous contact, or heaven forbid, by sight, who resolved your client problem if not immediately within a few days, and they would call you back to tell you so!

The dedicated agent line (0845 3667897) is usually helpful and the queue is of a not unreasonable length, but the personal contact with a local tax office representative is sorely missed I can tell you.

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0845 Numbers

I tried say no to 0870 and found an alternative number for the HMRC office I was trying to contact. I was asked if I was calling from abroad and when I answered no I was told in no uncertain terms I should not use the number again. The person I spoke to very reluctantly dealt with my enquiry but assured me this was a one off.

I have also tried to use the agents dedicated number for my own tax. HMRC refused to sdeal with my question, advised me to call the proper  number and hung up !!!!!!!! 

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0845 Numbers

I tried say no to 0870 and found an alternative number for the HMRC office I was trying to contact. I was asked if I was calling from abroad and when I answered no I was told in no uncertain terms I should not use the number again. The person I spoke to very reluctantly dealt with my enquiry but assured me this was a one off.

I have also tried to use the agents dedicated number for my own tax. HMRC refused to sdeal with my question, advised me to call the proper  number and hung up !!!!!!!! 

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No it's not

It was "local rate" when they were first introduced about 20 years ago, but the price of calls to geographical numbers has fallen considerably since then, while calls to 0845 numbers have not.  There is no such thing as a local rate now as you pay the same amount to call anywhere in the country.

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Tom McLelland

Are you saying that you get no money back for the use of your 0845 numbers, and that you do not get any free or discounted telephony services from the company that provided you with the 0845 number?  If so, what benefit are you or your customers getting? Can you give me an example of a call that would be cheaper over 0845 than a normal geographical number?

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Our experience of offering 0845

"Are you saying that you get no money back for the use of your 0845 numbers"

I already said that.

"and that you do not get any free or discounted telephony services from the company that provided you with the 0845 number?"

We pay a monthly fee for the number. We also pay 2.9p/minute rate to *receive* calls once we've passed a "fair usage" limit. Clearly I'm not privy to the internal workings of our provider's business operations so I don't know how their accounting for call costs works. Their charges to us seem fair, and not absurdly low.

"If so, what benefit are you or your customers getting?"

We get a set of call-routing and message-taking rules that allow us to effectively operate a switchboard without the hardware expense of a physical switchboard or the salary expense of an operator. Since we started using this our actual and potential customers never get an engaged tone, and we believe (anecdotally at the moment because it is too soon to draw final conclusions) that we're giving our customers a better service on the phone that makes them more likely to buy our products from us. We think, provisionally, that we're seeing more actual orders from our product coming through because of this, but obviously in any business there may be more than one factor at a time that drives things like sales conversion.

"Can you give me an example of a call that would be cheaper over 0845 than a normal geographical number?"

I'm not sure that I've claimed that. Our customers will usually be paying 4p/minute. The typical call to us lasts around 3-4 minutes (glancing at today's online call-log, another benefit of the system), so the typical phone cost of calling us on our 0845 number is a princely 15p.

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Tom McLelland

From what you say, it seems that your 0845 provider gives you the telephony system to which I referred in my question in exchange for the revenue generated for them by your use of the 0845 number.

As far as I am aware, few telecoms providers provide free access to 0845 numbers; those people that have to pay the extra cost would be contributing to the cost of your snazzy telephone system.

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0845 numbers

I avoid dialling these wherever possible.  Unfortunately, I have to use HMRC's 0845 agent line and some of their other numbers, but if I was looking through yellow pages for a company I would avoid one with an 0845 number.  Maybe I need to change providers to one that gives me these numbers free, but at the moment geographical numbers are free within my package for me.  0845 are not.  I don't see why I should pay extra to ring HMRC or Tom McClelland or anyone else.  Why should I pay for your switchboard service via my phone call?

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Hmmmm

We pay our provider a monthly fee for the facilities of the number, and we pay for incoming calls after a few-hundred minutes/month. And we give our customers a better service for a facility that typically costs our customers about 15p/call (which if they aren't on a free calls package is what they'd typically be paying anyway). On average each of our customers will call us maybe twice/year.

Yes, I concede, it is a "rip off" and a "con". (insert raised eyebrows emoticon here)

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Taxhound

I agree with you. I guess the majority of people/businesses now get free calls to landlines. If businesses want  your business why do they penalise you by making you pay more to call them.

I would prefer, as someone said above, that calls to HMRC should be on 0800 numbers. It is infuriating when you have to call several times before you get someone sensible to speak to, or have to wait in a long queue. It isn't just accountants who pay the cost, there are many people on low incomes claiming tax credits, or the pensioners who have wrong tax codes? Many clients tell me of their frustrating experiences when calling HMRC.

Unfortunately, HMRC have a monopoly, so we cannot change to another 'supplier' who provides an 0800 number or local number.

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Should have kept my big mouth shut

By singing the praises of our wonderful 0845 system and how much better a service it allows us to give our customers I evidently tempted fate. For the first time in the 2 months since we started using it gremlins just got into the system, and for the last hour or so callers from some numbers always get an engaged tone (which should never happen) while for people calling from other numbers everything is still working perfectly.

Doh! The title says it all.

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@Tom

Tom - maybe for your customers, the calls are not long and the costs are not high so it is not a problem.  I wouldn't begrudge a few pennies.  But if I ring an unknown company I don't know how long the call will last so I will simply not do it.

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0845 numbers not included in

mobile phone monthly allowance.

 

Tom I suggest you offer both numbers ie the 0845 and the 01....

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0845 scam

I made a New Year's resolution not to telephone HMRC on any 0845 number simply because it costs me money on top of my all inclusive landline package. I've survived thus far by putting everything in writing unless I can find a geographical number. I broke my resolution last month and a 7 minute call cost 23p - don't whether this is good or bad but this month I'll try harder.

To Ian Haynes. It's strange, isn't it, that HMRC can legally impose electronic forms of communication on us (VAT returns over £100K T/O etc.) but can't receive or send e-mails. It must fill them with dread that one day they will be forced to act like the rest of us and won't be able to leave unopened mail for months or deny receiving something. I'm curious why Lord Carter of Coles seemed happy with this state of affairs.

 

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How attractive is 0800 to customers?

OK, I'm going to go from annoyed defensive mode to pondering opportunities mode.

It had never occured to me to consider calling costs an issue, not when offering an 01 number, and not since we switched to our 4p/minute 0845 number 2 months ago. And so far not one single actual customer has commented adversely about our switch to 0845. I've just been and Excelled our actual call logs for the last month, and the average charged duration of calls to us was just under 5 minutes.

But there appears to be a consensus here that despite what we see in terms of actual incoming calls, 0845 numbers are a turn off to some potential buyers at least.

So I'm pondering the opposite. How attractive would it be for a business like ours (payroll software for small business) if when you went and looked on the contact page you saw an 0800 number there? Or if we maybe SHOUTED ABOUT AN 0800 NUMBER for our support hotline on our home page? Would that increase the likelihood of doing business with us. I'm slightly skeptical because I suspect that most potential users try the software first, and if they like it they don't actually care that their phone calls might cost a few p. But maybe I'm wrong and it could be a significant promotional weapon.

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0845 v 0800 v 01/02/03

If I knew the call was only going to last a short time (i.e. no long time on-hold and no off-shore-call-centre-type interminable list of daft questions and asking me how I am) I might not mind calling an 0845 number, but then you never know that when you sign up for a product.

For me, an 01,02,03 number would be more appealing than an 0800 number as they are included in my free allowances from both my land line and mobile.

From your point of view, you might get a lot of sales calls on an 0800 number.

Incidentally, in light of your first email, I withdraw my comment about 0845s always being a con, and apologise for the offence my inadequately-informed comment caused.

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I wouldn't bother with an 0800 number.

I had such a number for many, many years thinking that a freefone call would attract new business.

Sadly, nothing could have been further from the truth and I gave up the number only a month ago.

The cost to me amounted to 8p per minute and apart from one existing client, the only other callers were companies who had trawled through my institute's site and other sites, such as this one, in order to try and sell their wares, despite the number being registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

And trying to give up my freefone number was such a hardship that I would never use Verizon for anything ever again. I had to jump through more hoops than any lion ever had to in a circus.

Did I just write VERIZON. Sorry about that, I must have been thinking out loud.

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Thanks for a gentlemanly response

Thanks to Chatman for those kind words.

I guess I should also learn to be more thick skinned. What annoys me is seeing 0845 numbers (which I suspect are mostly used for the switchability and which don't in reality cost most callers much money) lumped in with 0870 numbers (where the recipient is coining money at a considerable rate whenever a client calls). In fact at least one of our competitors that shouts about its free payroll product only offers telephone support on a very expensive premium rate line. About 80p/minute from a landline if memory serves.

There does need to be a sense of perspective. I wasn't sure if the gentleman who complained about 0845 charges of 23p in a quarter was spoofing us or not. I regard the biggest cost of a phone call as my tiime or my staff's time, whether I'm making or receiving the call the actual call costs seem neither here nor there usually.

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Just use 01,02,03

 0800 really shouldn't have cost  more than 4p/min if you get it from other phone cos. However, I agree with what you say - 0800 is a pain for most people as  most people now call from mobiles where 0800 is charged at up to 10p -40p/min (T Mobile).    

Think the 01,02,03 works best and HMRC should adopt one of these.

 

 

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0845 v 0800 v 01/02/03

I would agree that 0800 is not a great idea any more, as they are not eligable for inclusive minutes on mobiles.

If you want a non geographic number use an 03 number which have to be treated by all providers in exactly the same way as standard geographic numbers, so they can be called free from any calls inclusive package.

Tom is right that 0845 numbers are not that expensive but I was allways put off by one until BT started including 0845 and 0870 numbers in their inclusive calls packages.

The numbers that really annoy me now are 0844 which some companies like banks and insurance companies are changing to from 0845 since OFCOM intoduced new rules about revenue sharing on 0845.  This trend started after the new 03 numbers were available so it is pretty cynical.

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0845 BIG CON - HOW DOES IT FEEL NOW YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE BEING

0845 NUMBERS ARE A BIG CON - FACT.  MEALY MOUTHED RESPONSES AND UNINTELLIGIBLE ANSWERS TO THE VERY FEW QUESTIONS RAISED IN PARLIAMENT ON THIS SUBJECT PROVE THIS TO BE THE CASE - CHECK IT OUT YOURSELVES.  YOUR LOCAL MP, HOWEVER WELL MEANING, WON'T GET ANYWHERE - TRY IT. 0845 IS AN EXERCISE IN TRYING TO FUND THE INLAND REVS CALL CENTRES SUPPOSEDLY. 

GET REAL AND LET'S ALL CARRY ON WITH THIS FARCE LIKE GOOD LITTLE UNQUESTIONING BOYS. WHO DO YOU EXPECT TO FIGHT YOUR CORNERS?

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0800

Just to add to the debate as I said earlier on our website and advertising we have both the 0800 number and the 01... number.  There is no doubt that the 0800 number has brought us business, so clients continue to use itbut it is not on our lettehead.  For us it has been a real winner.

So Tom my advice is to keep your 0845 number so that past clients dont need to change get an 01... number, if because of your setup you dont have one, for about £2 per month you can get one - www.soho66.co.uk is one such company.  Consider an 0800 number and an 030 number as suggested by others.  But imho always show the 01... number because this tells everyone where you are. 

 

 

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Some sense, and some nonsense

Amid plenty of calm advice here there is also plenty of nonsense.

I've now checked the facts in terms of our contract with our telephony provider. We could have had a geographical number from the start, and it would have cost us exactly the same as an 0845 one, but we rejected it at the time for two reasons.

We (perhaps mistakenly) thought that 0845 sounded bigger and more professionalEmotionally we were slightly put off by not being able to have a geographical number in our own town from the provider that we were going to use.

The fact that the cost to us for our telephony services is identical for 0845 and 01xx blows out of the water the assertion that the other services being offered by our telephony provider were cross-subsidised by the 4p/minute for calling 0845. It does seem somewhat daft to shout about HMRC funding its operations from the kickbacks on a 4p/minute line, and I seriously doubt that there are any such kickbacks at all, even for HMRC at their scale.

But, rationally or not, some potential buyers are mortally predisposed against 0845. Whether they're right or wrong about that doesn't matter if we lose their business as a result. As it happens we can buy an 01xx number from our provider that routes to the same virtual switchboard as the 0845 number for an additional £2.50/month (Wow, our provider was REALLY desperate to keep us on the 0845 number, weren't they!), and no other costs to us. So now we offer both numbers on our website. Anyone who is paying for their landline minutes at more than 4p/minute retains the option to call our 0845 number. Everyone else has the option to call the 01xx number, with the slight side benefit that the 01xx number also works from abroad.

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Tom

It wasn't a spoof when I said I'd paid 23p for a 7 minute 0845 phone call - just a fact. I have a landline package which costs me £9.99 per month but would increase considerably as a proportion if I phoned 0845 or 0870 numbers. It is a personal choice and others may well decide that searching for an alternative geographical number is not worth the time and effort. I quite enjoy the challenge of finding an alternative (or in the case of HMRC just never phoning them). I was always taught that it was the pennies that made the pounds and may well account for the fact that I'm debt free.

 

 

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I wouldn’t mind if I got through

There are agent priority lines for individual/partnership self assessment (0845 366 7855) and for tax credits (0845 300 3943), but not for CT, C2NICs, VAT and HMRC admin such as CAAT. I wouldn’t mind the cost of 0845 if I could get through. I’m having huge problems getting through to VAT NAL – you listened to the dreadful message about checking online (do HMRC think I haven’t done this already?) then have to listen to the menus – no good pressing the menu number beforehand because it won’t be accepted – then after getting through I’m told HMRC are too busy to take my call and I must call back later. My logs show that I have to phone NAL about 20 times before I get through. Are HMRC aware of the huge numbers of caller who can’t get through? If HMRC are too busy to speak to taxpayers – makes me wonder what are they doing about those who aren’t “in the club”?

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Telephone response to HMRC letters

A number of times I have exchanged several letters with HMRC regarding a specific client and subject.  It is often the case that the letters, signed by the same individual, say that if there are any queries arising the person can be reached by the telephone number given at the top of the letter.

Nearly every time the number given is the call centre number rather than a direct line number for the individual writing the letter.   When I phone the number given I am always told that they cannot transfer the call to the person I need.

Do others experience this, or am I doing something wrong?

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Me too!

See original post.  I also thought it was just me being naive.

Unless told otherwise, I will assume this is a way of HMRC staff avoiding direct contact.

 

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A much cheaper way.......

I too was a tad frustrated with the cost of hanging on calls with HMRC until I upgraded my mobile.

I already had one of those all singing all dancing packages that gives me unlimited landline and other mobile calls (I haven't used my landline to make a call fro 2 years!) and got an upgrade (Vodaphone) that for £3/mth allows me to call all 0800/0845 etc numbers free!

Excellent value!

 

-- A Nonny Mouse

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Creative dialling

One technique I have tried in large organisations with automatic switchboards, is to try changing the last digit or digits of the 'standard' number, if it seems possible that it's just one number in a block of numbers.

Often I have got through to a real person, I then say, "Oh sorry, I really wanted Mrs. X" and they have said , "oh you wanted XXXX, I'll just transfer you..."

Also keep a list of any 'direct' numbers that work, for future reference !

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