The story about HMRC using the 0845 numbers has got me thinking about the VAT advice line. Whilst not normally a big critic of HMRC (their agent helpline is superb) but that VAT helpline is almost fraudulent. They have extended the messages again, it starts off a message about contacting your courier company (!!) then lots of options, with the last option nearly always the one for help with VAT (which is what most people call the VAT helpline for !), it takes exactly 4 minutes 10 seconds before it actually gets through to anybody and starts ringing. That's before you are put onto hold.
And once you're through, I have no idea what they have done with the staff there. The last three times I've called they have not even pretended to offer any help at all. They just tell you to read the relevant public notice. I asked whether that was feasible when it's hundreds of pages and the query is not that technical, and they have just said that's all the advice they can offer. No offer of helping or escalating the query...just a curt reply to get rid of you. I think it's very strange because they used to be fairly helpful and friendly a few years ago.
I think they might have forgotten that we are acting as unpaid tax collectors for the government !