Accountants vent anger over HMRC’s lack of careby
With the deadline for self assessment looming, accountants are frustrated and fed up with having to deal with HMRC’s helpline restrictions and the lack of support.
Since 11 December, HMRC has placed restrictions on its helplines, answering only calls that are deemed a priority in an attempt to push people to use online services.
Despite the continued belief that if customers used online services the helpline would be more efficient, complaints regarding HMRC’s extended wait times and insufficient support have flooded Any Answers.
AccountingWEB members were asked whether they have felt abandoned during their time of need as the deadline for self assessment gets closer and closer.
Unsurprisingly, the responses painted a disheartening picture of the challenges faced by those who couldn’t solve their issue online and had to seek assistance using the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL).
The same old story
HMRC has been keeping up its tradition of making people wait. In September accountants had to experience lengthy wait times after HMRC closed the helpline for three months.
While the Any Answers community has got used to this, it hasn’t stopped the frustration and annoyance they have with HMRC.
Regular commenter, Duggimon wrote, “I avoid calling them at all costs. My longest wait time this month has been two complete tax returns started and finished in the time it took for an answer.”
This prompted other members to share the longest they’ve had to wait this month. AWEB member, Open all hours said, “54 minutes before being cut off on Tuesday. Not surprised any more. They simply don’t care.”
In a separate Any Answers post, 17RDR12 spoke about their frustrating experience. “90 minutes of constant reminders that the answers to my question are probably available online (it isn’t) was not a great start to my morning,” they said.
A lot of members are growing increasingly frustrated as HMRC has advised them to use online services, despite needing to use the helpline. “Can they really believe that busy practitioners call HMRC on the ADL when they do not need to?” wrote Maurice.
AccountingWEB contributor, Jennifer Adams said, “It’s frustrating for agents and distressing for clients and I would suggest that the situation has become worse since Covid.”
Not worth the wait
It’s not just the wait that has been irritating accountants, but also the lack of support and help once they are finally through to the ADL.
“It’s not really the time it takes to get through, it’s the fact that you know it’s going to be pointless most of the time. All very frustrating and a massive waste of time and resources,” another member, Jajo wrote.
Jennifer Adams further commented on this issue and said, “No one seems to have the authority to actually deal with the more unusual problems. For example, I have three clients who have been waiting for (large) refunds and they have now been waiting two years.”
She then continued and highlighted further issues within HMRC. “Who would want to work at HMRC? This is the real reason for the lack of support – there is a lack of qualified staff and I would suggest a lack of incentive to get qualified (when they do they leave for better pay and conditions on our side of the fence).”
Will it ever improve?
Helen Thornley, a technical officer at the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) shared the feedback she has received from their members. “Our members have been frustrated by the recent restrictions. Feedback continues to highlight long wait times, and confusion over what questions the helpline staff are permitted to answer. Most members tell us they are only ringing HMRC if absolutely necessary,” she said.
Thornley pointed out two changes that could improve the effectiveness of HMRC’s helplines.
1. Agents need more access to information about their clients online.
“It would be great if agents (and taxpayers) could see details of exactly what makes up bank interest figures in PAYE codes and P800s/simple assessments without ringing up to ask.”
2. Corrections and adjustments should be made online.
“We are currently speaking to HMRC about PAYE coding notices as 2024/25 tax codes will start to be issued this month. While taxpayers can request some adjustments online via their personal tax accounts, agents can only ring or write to make changes.”
In the meantime, accountants are preparing for long wait times as the self assessment deadline looms.