HMRC speak

What does it mean

Didn't find your answer?

HMRC have just sent an e-mail telling me how wonderful they are and including the following sentence

"Following the success of the December test and learn, the CT and VAT telephony lines will see a further telephony shuttering exercise on Fridays in February and March 2022": 

What on earth is telephony shuttering ??

Replies (41)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By jonharris999
16th Feb 2022 14:49

It's beyond wonderful, isn't it?

Try saying "Telephony shuttering?" with the same intonation that Gene Hackman uses to say "Otisburg?" in 'Superman'. It helped me.

Thanks (2)
Replying to jonharris999:
avatar
By NewACA
18th Feb 2022 11:22

It means not answering the phone.

Basically, if they get volumes of calls over a certain threshold you get a message "we are too busy right now, goodbye" and they cut the call off.

Of course, this increase volumes of calls, as then people just call back and try again, wasting more time, so more people are on the phone creating a vicious circle.

Its basically like trying to answer one of those premium rate numbers hoping to be the chosen one that gets to speak to the radio host in a £10,000 prize competition. People keep calling in the vain hope that they will be able to get through.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By Hugo Fair
16th Feb 2022 14:51

You just beat me to it ... it's worth repeating the whole email as it is a glowing exemplar of how to combine tin-eared smugness with wholesale obfuscation - so see separate post below.

'Shuttering' is another of those Orwellian-style inventions of Whitehall newspeak and as far as I can see simply means shutting! A bit like 'pausing' which may have fallen out of fashion already?

Actually the one I like, as it gives insight into what passes for Jimboy's brain, is the phrase "test and learn" ... since testing something previously in HMRC obviously never flowed through to any concept of learning from the exercise - no now has to be stated explicitly!

Thanks (4)
avatar
By Hugo Fair
16th Feb 2022 14:54

The full glorious text:

Dear customer,
Over the course of the pandemic, HMRC made choices about the work we prioritised to protect our essential services and the livelihoods of our customer groups who needed it the most. We prioritised the COVID-19 support schemes, the UK’s smooth transition from the European Union and the essential services that keep the tax system running.

In the first half of the year, we focused on stabilising our phone services and our tax credits/child benefit service, while we maintained our customs services well within targets and supported the smooth running of the COVID-19 support schemes until they closed in October 2021. We are now working through the stocks of post that built up over the past year.

During December, we ran a test and learn on the Corporation Tax (CT) and VAT helplines (except bereavement) to assess the impact of telephony closure across three Fridays and used the time to focus on our post backlogs in these lines.

On average, we cleared more than 4,000 additional pieces of post each day during the test and learn. We saw an increased productivity rate among colleagues, above our initial planning assumptions, who were able to focus on the task without stopping mid-way through to take a phone call.

As anticipated, we saw an increase in telephony contact on Monday’s following the Friday closures, and estimate we received 2,500 extra calls over the three Mondays (using November as a comparator). We were able to offer an acceptable level of service to these customers despite the additional demand.

Our stakeholders were broadly supportive of the pilot and our colleagues were clear in their support of this approach and the focus on recovering post.

Following the success of the December test and learn, the CT and VAT telephony lines will see a further telephony shuttering exercise on Fridays in February and March 2022:
• CT – 25 February to 25 March 2022
• VAT (excluding bereavement) – 25 February to 25 March 2022 (excluding 4 March).

We’ve listened to feedback from our stakeholders and have selected these dates to avoid key events on these lines, including the VAT peak. This will allow us to maintain our customer service levels throughout the rest of the week.

Based on current plans, we expect to see a significant improvement in our service levels in these critical areas.

We are still considering how our learning could be used to help other telephony lines within our business in the future.

Yours faithfully

Jim Harra

Thanks (2)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
Tornado
By Tornado
16th Feb 2022 15:26

'We are still considering how our learning could be used to help other telephony lines within our business in the future.'

Business? Are they talking about HMRC?

A business is usually an organisation that runs efficiently and makes profits for the owners. Above all, a good business provides its customers with what they want. If they don't get it right, they often go bust.

It is not too difficult to see where HMRC does not quite fit this profile.

Thanks (4)
Replying to Tornado:
avatar
By Open all hours
19th Feb 2022 18:53

A business has customers and HMRC like to think they also have customers.
It is usual for a business to carry stock and charge customers for items sold from stock.
When HMRC refer to a backlog of post as ‘stock’ I assume we are getting near to the time when HMRC will charge customers for items removed from ‘stock’ i.e. we will pay for the privilege of receiving their correspondence?
The only other explanation for their continued mincing of the language is that they deliberately set out to deceive and mislead their ‘customers’. It is a disgrace that this is also a very real possibility.

Thanks (0)
Tornado
By Tornado
16th Feb 2022 15:11

Yes, I have had two of these (two contact email addresses) and am still wondering what all the 'modern' speak is all about. It seems that they have learned something (that most of us know already) and they are keen to learn more.

The term 'shuttering' is either a misuse of the word 'shutting', (for example a euphemism for 'shutting' in your pants) or a brand new word for ignorance but in any case, it seems that all those Media Studies Degrees have been wasted on those in the HMRC Public Relations department who are clearly finding it difficult to communicate effectively with us.

Thanks (3)
Replying to Tornado:
avatar
By More unearned luck
16th Feb 2022 15:20

'Shuttering' isn't a new word as anyone who has poured concrete will know. Presumably this is why their spell and grammar checker didn't flag it.

Thanks (2)
Replying to More unearned luck:
Tornado
By Tornado
16th Feb 2022 15:29

Yes indeed. As someone who spent nearly 5 years in the Construction Industry, I am familiar with the word 'Shuttering', but Telephony Shuttering is completely new to me.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tornado:
By SteveHa
16th Feb 2022 15:53

From Miriam-Webster, "to close by or as if by shutters
corporations shuttering their production plants"

So not too much of a stretch, even if archaic.

Thanks (0)
Replying to SteveHa:
avatar
By More unearned luck
17th Feb 2022 18:51

M-W is a dictionary of US English!

Thanks (0)
Replying to More unearned luck:
RLI
By lionofludesch
17th Feb 2022 19:05

Can't be that archaic then. They use our history, having none of their own.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By NYB
16th Feb 2022 15:00

Beat me too it as well. I presumed they were inventing new words.

Thanks (0)
Replying to NYB:
avatar
By Hugo Fair
16th Feb 2022 15:06

Sure are - but maybe they have a new role model ...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

It's not HMRC's fault that we're too ignorant to intuit what *they* know they were saying!

Thanks (2)
Replying to NYB:
Scooby
By gainsborough
16th Feb 2022 15:07

Same here!

Thanks (0)
paddle steamer
By DJKL
16th Feb 2022 15:03

Shuttering- reminds me of the clacks in Going Postal (Terry Pratchett)

Thanks (5)
Replying to DJKL:
avatar
By Hugo Fair
16th Feb 2022 15:24

How very dare you! :=)

The clacks *aided* and speeded up communications ... the antithesis of whatever happens when a reader chances upon that HMRC email.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
16th Feb 2022 16:16

But they worked with shutters creating light patterns and like telephony were a means of communication.

Thanks (1)
Replying to DJKL:
avatar
By Hugo Fair
16th Feb 2022 16:52

I always enjoyed Pratchett's recurrent trope whereby he'd retrospectively 'invent' something in the past that we already know in our world (but with a mechanised flavour) ... sort of like an inversion of HG Wells.

In the case of the clacks I always took this to be an aberrant cousin of optical fibre comms ... whereas of course Jimboy's email content is more of an optical illusion.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By DKB-Sheffield
16th Feb 2022 15:12

I've read it too and, after pausing for 5 minutes to marvel at how wonderful HMRC are, I jumped straight over to AWeb to have a whinge!

Quote:
shuttering
in British English
NOUN
another word (esp Brit) for formwork

Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

And then...

Quote:
formwork
in British English
NOUN
an arrangement of wooden boards, bolts, etc, used to shape reinforced concrete while it is setting
Also called (esp Brit): shuttering

Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

HMRC often say they want to reach out to their 'customers'... but, spending Fridays working in construction... isn't that a step too far?

However, reading between the lines, HMRC effectively say "there's no chance of getting through to HMRC on a Friday or Monday"! That's an improvement - there's currently little chance of getting through to VAT or CT at any time between Monday and Friday!

The one thing I did find slightly amusing... in the December trial, they processed an additional 4,000 documents but missed 2,500 calls which were handled on Monday (albeit, I guess many of Friday's calls did not ring back at the start if the working week)! So, why have turnaround times increased?

And, more to the point, what physical documents are they actually dealing with? Why not spend the time striving for total digital communication if they want to be the most digitally advanced tax regime in the world?!

Anyway, whinge over!

Thanks (2)
Avatar
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
16th Feb 2022 15:41

What a canny way of getting your backlog dealt with. Simply shutter down your telephony lines!

So (sorry Bernard) isn't it about time we organised ourselves into writing to HMRC about every single matter rather than wasting hours on the blower on the days when HMRC's lines aren't shuttered! Standard letter templates, a little word processing, and one stuffed weekly envelope mailed by Royal Mail's recorded postie.

If you think HMRC are slow, and for anyone planning a holiday, my daughter's (straightforward) passport renewal will be processed they hope by April "unless she hears from the passport office beforehand" (according to the texty she received).

Thanks (0)
By Paul D Utherone
16th Feb 2022 15:47

Telephone shuttering aka pulling the phone plug out of the wall and letting the answerphone message take the strain

Thanks (1)
avatar
By Latinaid
16th Feb 2022 16:48

They are asking us to believe that the same people who would have answered the phone are now opening the post. I'm afraid I don't buy that - they will be completely different departments.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Latinaid:
Tornado
By Tornado
16th Feb 2022 17:20

Although I am not totally sure of this, I understand that the way HMRC deal with post is that all physical letters covering a wide range of subjects are sent to one single address where they are opened and everything in that envelope is scanned and the original documents archived at one location. The scanned documents are then uploaded to a central computer pool with a general description of what the communication is about and then HMRC operatives located anywhere in the Country (or perhaps abroad even) will take responsibility for dealing with the communication from where they are.

The idea seems sound, and would fit in with the idea of reducing regional offices to just 13, but there are clearly problems with this system if HMRC are up to and in excess of a year behind in dealing with some letters and, in my experience, never reply to some letters at all. The system is so bad that it cannot even send out an acknowledgement to say the letter has been received and is being dealt with.

On this basis it is possible that people who deal with telephone enquiries can also deal with letters from the same desk/kitchen table/holiday home, but there has to be a problem if there are not enough people to deal with telephone enquiries and letters concurrently. Part of this problem could be down to people like myself who refused to wait hours on the phone waiting to speak to someone and now prefer to write a letter to HMRC so the communication is in writing and more difficult to ignore or deliberately cut-off.

I think I am pretty much right with my description of how letters are dealt with but perhaps one of the AWEB professional writers could write an article on this and find out what really happens to our letters.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tornado:
Avatar
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
16th Feb 2022 20:05

I'd heard similar, that mail is still being opened by a skeleton crew at the central BX9 1AX hub; and thereafter distributed to various HMRC staff, many of who are still working from their living rooms.

During early lock down months, one thing I rather did pick-up on during unusually relaxed phone conversations was that HMRC's staff had by and large indeed been redeployed; in the main so as to expedite job retention scheme distributions. So "Pay now, check later" became, I was told by one or two Scot-friendly types of supervisor level seniority, their mantum, The follow-through of which might just be the underlying reason behind HMRC's current hold-up with everything else.

Thanks (0)
Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
RLI
By lionofludesch
17th Feb 2022 06:30

I'msorryIhaven'taclue wrote:

I'd heard similar, that mail is still being opened by a skeleton crew at the central BX9 1AX hub; and thereafter distributed to various HMRC staff, many of who are still working from their living rooms.

During early lock down months, one thing I rather did pick-up on during unusually relaxed phone conversations was that HMRC's staff had by and large indeed been redeployed; in the main so as to expedite job retention scheme distributions. So "Pay now, check later" became, I was told by one or two Scot-friendly types of supervisor level seniority, their mantum, The follow-through of which might just be the underlying reason behind HMRC's current hold-up with everything else.

Ah! The Covid excuse.

Everything was fine before Covid. Correspondence was dealt with within days, if not hours.

It's not my recollection. The storm's been building for ten years or more.

Thanks (3)
Replying to Tornado:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
16th Feb 2022 21:57

Tornado wrote:

… the communication is in writing and more difficult to ignore or deliberately cut-off.

Almost as amusing as Jimbo’s email.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tornado:
avatar
By Jimess
18th Feb 2022 10:32

The one postal code fits all still applies - unless you are writing about a PAYE for employers matter. Then you have to write to the employers office at PT Ops BX9 1BX. I was told by an adviser at that particular office that they could see that documents I had sent to BX9 1AS during lockdown had come in to the generic postbag on my client's PAYE scheme record but could not access them. She said that once the PAYE teams were switched out of Covid work their post switched back to the IBX postbag and they could not do anything about my correspondence as they were now unable to access any documents sent to the 1AS postbag. I issued copies of the correspondence to BX9 1BX the same day. The correspondence was by then well over a year old. A check on the HMRC where's my post is currently giving me a 14 weeks turnaround time - so sometime in April. My client has been waiting since November 2020 for this to be dealt with.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Jimess:
avatar
By Homeworker
28th Feb 2022 10:33

I sent an email enquiry to the VAT office on 24.8.21 as neither I nor my client could get through on the phone. I asked them to respond by post.
My client has just received this response:

"Thank you for your enquiry of 24.08.2021, regarding the June return
I apologise for the delay in replying and for any inconvenience this may have caused. We have an unusually high volume of correspondence on hand and are unfortunately responding outside the 15 working day target. Unfortunately, I cannot see any valid authority on file to allow me to give customer specific information to you, If you have recently sent us a 64-8 agent authorisation form, please be aware that it can take several weeks before it is available to view on our systems. As I cannot currently verify your authority to receive the information that you have requested, I am unable to progress your query any further. Further information on agent authorisation can be found by typing ?Tax Agents and Advisers VAT? into the search facility on our website.

If you have any further queries regarding this matter, please submit your enquiry via our website, ensuring that you quote the case reference number at the top of this reply. Enquiries can be submitted by visiting the www.gov.uk website and searching for 'contact hmrc' in the search facility provided."

Leaving aside that it has taken them so long to respond that I had forgotten what it was all about, why are they telling the client that they cannot given him "customer specific information" because they don't have his authority!!
p.s. I only wanted to check that they had received and processed his payment, which was delayed, and have since done so.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By bluebaron
16th Feb 2022 17:09

I got the email and thought that HMRC had mistyped it in a hurry.
Anyway, how about "MTD Abandoning..??!!!" That would certainly be a good one.

Thanks (0)
RLI
By lionofludesch
16th Feb 2022 18:56

Shutting. With stuttering.

Thanks (0)
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
16th Feb 2022 22:07

Shuttering = the act of repeatedly shutting and opening an important service in order to maintain another service, which is itself only necessary due to the inadequacies of the service to be ‘shuttered’.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By Michael Davies
17th Feb 2022 09:41

“acceptable level of service” LOL

Thanks (2)
avatar
By Catherine Newman
17th Feb 2022 10:07

Apologies for the delayed response on this one.
Just a quick update. I did indeed receive the grants. I was completely aware they were taxable, but assumed I could add them on to my 2021-2022 year's accounts as an entire lump sum as they spread across 2 years. I have since spoken with HMRC, hence the delay (they seemed more confused than me about this!) we/they have sorted it.
They are happy to stick with the ammended return so I have made the additional payment.

Speaking to HMRC is mind melting!!!

The above sums up several issues succinctly.

Speaking to HMRC is mind melting-yep. Agents on the Helpline helping-no.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By kathyk0410
17th Feb 2022 11:50

Also last week's HMRC email re "Parenting, pains and paying statutory payments" - still can't work out what pains refers to ..... or was supposed to be?

Thanks (0)
Replying to kathyk0410:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
21st Feb 2022 09:16

kathyk0410 wrote:

Also last week's HMRC email re "Parenting, pains and paying statutory payments" - still can't work out what pains refers to ..... or was supposed to be?

Maybe it should have read "Parenting pains and paying statutory payments"? a la ‘Panda: Eats, shoots & leaves’.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By kathyk0410
17th Feb 2022 11:52

Duplicate

Thanks (0)
avatar
By More unearned luck
17th Feb 2022 19:08

Since when did 'telephone lines' become 'telephony lines'? We also have colleagues instead of staff , or as this is HMRC. 'officers'. The first time I came across this misuse of 'colleague' was on a sign in a shop "If you can't find what you are looking for ask a colleague'. I couldn't figure out why someone who works in the same accountancy practice as me would know in which aisle I would find garden twine. I also see signs saying 'team members' wanted. Is 'staff' a dirty word?

Thanks (0)
Replying to More unearned luck:
Routemaster image
By tom123
18th Feb 2022 10:42

Blame Archie Norman formerly of Asda fame - he was the guy who changed from 'Staff' to 'Colleagues'

Thanks (1)
Replying to More unearned luck:
Avatar
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
18th Feb 2022 11:23

More unearned luck wrote:

"If you can't find what you are looking for ask a colleague'. I couldn't figure out why someone who works in the same accountancy practice as me would know in which aisle I would find garden twine.

Ha ha, I get it.

I had a close encounter yesterday with a "parking officer" at Tesco who was busily ticketing illegally parked cars. Their signage states "cars that are parked outside of the marked bays" (get ticketed) and not "cars that aren't parked inside of the marked bays" (which makes a world of difference if, like me, you happened to have parked smack on the line). No doubt it's the officer status that encourages them to behave that way; I much preferred it when they were wardens or attendants and, in the absence of CCTV, motorists were able to strike a blow.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Willaja
18th Feb 2022 10:52

We are not "customers". We are tax payers. When are the accountancy bodies going to take issue with this mis-representation? They would do so with us as members of their professional bodies, subjecting us to increasing "Quality Assurance"

Thanks (0)