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Is this normal for HMRC?

Is this normal for HMRC?

As an agent we rang HMRC and after passing the identity checks the conversation went:
HMRC: How can we help you?
Agent: Do you want the NINO or the UTR?
HMRC: What are you calling about first?
Agent: Surely you need the NINO or UTR first?
HMRC: No, we need to know the purpose of your call.
Agent: The purpose of the call is to ask about progress with our letter dated 16 January.
HMRC: Thank you. What is the UTR?
Agent: The UTR is xxxxxx xxxxxx so now you have asked for what we offered at the begininng of this conversation.
HMRC: That's how we work.


Is this normal or have we missed something?


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25th Mar 2007 10:32

Computers and departments
It may be frustrating but if they ask for the UTR and then tell you that you need to be transferred to someone else you would have been just as annoyed.

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27th Mar 2007 20:00

and we wonder
why there is an us and them attitude when people on this side of the fence are doing their damndest to make life difficult.

I would just like to correct one point. I don't work for HMRC, I work for my clients and do my best to make sure that their life is as easy as possible. If that involves telling someone at HMRC that they are out of order I do so but I do it effectively. A reference to the "Customer Services Manager" does the trick. It used to be the District Inspector or Area Director until they streamlined the service so that it seems as if there is no one in charge any more. I've even been known to raise my voice in a meeting but ranting at an unnamed person at the other end of the phone who is only trying to do their job is not productive and could even be said to be adopting the bully boy tactics that are comlained of.

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By Anonymous
28th Mar 2007 01:28

You think 23:48 is sad?
Anthony, did you think that not having finished the days work and had a chance to start idly browsing the net until 23:48 is sad? That was early for me!

And no, that was me in a normal mood. Same job, same woman, same everything. I was then and am now truly happy for you if spending time spouting a script unnecessarily makes you happy.

I believe the staff don't need any prompting to let people up the chain know they aren't happy; seems to be related to the same complaint as we have. If they were nurses it would have worked. But we really cried that day they wen't on strike, didn't we :-D

And "The one-day strike began at 0700 BST on Thursday and may cause some disruption with the processing of tax returns." isn't as dramatic as bringing out the green goddesses for winning the sympathy vote!

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By Anonymous
24th Mar 2007 23:23

Really worthy of a rant on Aweb?
I get the feeling that at the end of a hard Friday afternoon whoever you spoke to when that phone stopped ringing was going to get it no matter what.

I can imagine that which they need could depend on what the enquiry was, as could whether there was any point in you speaking to that person at all.

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By Anonymous
26th Mar 2007 10:31

On the technical aspects of your question, my view is that the HMRC officer was entirely reasonable. I imagine they were following a script, so were complying with an HMRC internal system. You have no knowledge of that system, so how are you able to criticise it and, indeed, why would you want to?

I also mentioned this to my Auntie Doris, who, when not at the bingo, reads neighbours' tealeaves. She ventured the opinion that all may not be going well in your home life and that you might have had a recent disappointment involving a government official, such as a refusal by a planning officer to approve that iron pergola you have wanted for so long. This has manifested a recent hatred of authority in you. Is she warm?

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By Anonymous
28th Mar 2007 10:59

I have a solution -
Dial the number, SMILE, and then talk. Although your colleagues will all think you are a bit wierd it will relax you and ensure that you start the call on the right note.

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By Anonymous
28th Mar 2007 12:10

Alternative solution,,,,,,,
,,,,,go and do something else for a living. If the job's getting c***, don't do it anymore!

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26th Mar 2007 21:35

Yes that's normal
I reckon the last three respondents work for H M Gestapo! Yes that's how HMRC now work - to a script and without the old rapport with local accountants. Only 15 or so years ago, before HMRC centralised operations and sacked all the Inspectors with the experience, you could pick up the phone and actually speak to an Inspector who had an intimate knowledge of the clients and accountants in their town. You didn't give a UTR because they got to know your voice. The Inspectors also knew the dodgy accountants and that counted for something when decent accountants' clients were investigated. If you can't beat them join them: when HMRC telephone us to try to clear a simple point informally we (1) warn them that the call may be recorded for training and security purposes; (2) ask them for the full UTR, name and address of the taxpayer; and (3) ask for the full name and office of the person asking the question. If they are not happy we ask that they put their request in writing within the next 28 working days.

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By Anonymous
26th Mar 2007 23:48

Feel better afterwards?
Does doing that make you feel better?

It would need to, as it would be the only benefit.

HMRC staff will be used to phoning the likes of Big Plc central payroll, where they doubtless go through that sort of script. They probably go through it when they phone the likes of KPMG. I bet they even go through something similar or worse when they phone each other.

I doubt they bat an eye-lid when they go through it with you. Unless of course they happen to be local and know you; in which case you'll have p'd them off and reversed any reputational benefit accrued.

But if it makes you feel better, that's the main thing. After all it's your own time you're wasting. And as I say, Friday afternoons can get you in a c*** mood.

And not just if you work in an accountants office. I bet they're pretty c*** in the tax office call centre too. In fact, just the thing they'll be needing to encourage them to possibly give anyone the benefit of any small discretion they can use will be a nice pleasant jolly person like you sharing their good mood!

I'm not saying they aren't complete swines to deal with; they are. They're as bad as a really nasty smelly flea ridden alsation sleeping on the grass in the park. My question is merely, as with the dog, why poke them with a stick?

Anyway... c'mon. If that's the best you've got to moan about when dealing with HMRC these days I'm jealous!

It's the way of the modern crummy world we live in. But, on the other hand, the scripts can be a stick to beat them with. There are plenty of posts here from people who've looked up the revenue's manuals or 'scripts' on the internet and used them against inspectors that are trying to show some 'individuality'. We need to make the most of life when we can

When was the last time the local bank managers had the same type of relationship with you has you have with the local tax inspector 5 years ago? Was it 15 years ago or more?

At least they're not in India telling you they can't understand your regional accent when you want an audit certificate. Yet.

But...while we're on the subject of the change in their security procedures in recent times... Can anyone remember who it was that a Sunday Times journalist managed to convince an office they were the accountant for, and how much stick the revenue got for it?

I've the feeling it was

a) a lord Somebodyoranother. Lord Levy comes to mind but I'm not sure. Name might just be coming to mind becuase he's been in the news a lot recently


b) lots

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27th Mar 2007 16:46

Stone the crows, I hit a raw nerve there didn't I? Just been sacked, wife run off, or bad day at the office? And at 23:48pm - even sadder than me. On a serious point, yes it does make me feel better because truly the only way to deal with big organisations is to make their life as much of a trudge as they make yours and then hopefully all those p'd off staff will report back to their managers and say hang on perhaps we have lost the plot with these scripts, call centres and security procedures. I'm probably getting a bit old and cynical but my actions are just borne out of frustration with modern "customer services" and push button procedures. I am old school insofar as I always return calls immediately, clients always get through to a partner, we have no waiting music or push buttons and we bend over backwards to make our clients lives easier. And it works! I can not count the number who say its good to speak to a human being who understands their problem. People even thank me for returning their call immediately - usually with an incredulous tone. But I thought that's what we were supposed to do isn't it?

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28th Mar 2007 12:28

OK sorry Mike - probably you and I should grow up a bit. It wasn't meant to be a rant. It was just support for the observation of the original posting which was pretty much shouted down by the first three comments.

The bottom line is that I love my job and would do exactly the same all over again. But I sometimes "lose it" through the sheer frustration and feeling that I am swimming through treacle dealing with big organisations, be they HMRC, insurers, bankers or even my own Institute. But yes it is unprofessional to let that boil over.

I take the point also that my beligerence (is that how you spell it?) will not help the client anyway as my "black mark" could be held against clients should I ever need to negotiate with HMRC. So I will take the advice to smile before dialling and accept that the person on the other end of the phone is as p'd off as I am.

I don't know what the answer is - I suppose I should be grateful that I am my own boss and work in an environment small enough to be nimble and flexible and not be bound by scripts and procedure.

But doesn't it just make you mad???!!!

All the best.

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28th Mar 2007 13:41

this is the world we live in
I read all the comments and agree wiht most of them (except for the bad language- why does everyone has to swear these days ???

With HMRC as with accountants there are good ones and bad ones. At the end of day one must rembember that we are the clients representatives and should to the best we can for them but we are all humans and prone to bad moods, bad days and sometimes it boils over. I have lost my temper more than a few times wiht the tax credits helpline and the bunch of seemingly incompetents fools working there....
But we have a policy in the office is that whatever kind of day we are having when our phone/extansion rings, we have to answer the phone with a smile on our face. It does work...

As the saying goes, you attract far more bees with honey that vinegar...

My fellow team members at the office know well when to stay clear from me. This is usually after I have had to deal with someone at HMRC or other government departments with the common sense of a dimwit, as no idea apart from what they read on their screens and sometimes makes me wonder if ordinary human beings have been replaced by robots who can't thnk for themselves...

So good luck to the human race. We are a pretty sad bunch really but some of us live in hope and still find things to smile about...

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