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dog on phones | accountingweb | accountants cross with HMRC helpline restrictions
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Accountants vent anger over HMRC’s lack of care

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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.

22nd Jan 2024
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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. 

Replies (44)

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By Alanpryan
23rd Jan 2024 09:36

Had to call them today (8am) 23 Jan re a refund that was sitting there and not refunded despite Tax Return instructions. First call 'connected' but although I could hear a room full - no one could hear me. Try again - 30 minute wait - to be told can't deal with a refund even though the phone preamble clearly states they can. Easier to call back in February now. Just a simple example, and not in itself the end of the world, but having dealt with HMRC for over 40 years I can safely say that over the last 5 years the decline in the level of service has been appalling!

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Replying to Alanpryan:
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By Gary Copland
23rd Jan 2024 09:45

Had the same experience, "we are going through security checks, ring back in February", as if that's going to satisfy your client.

The lack of care & training at HMRC is obvious.
I actually now do Rent Accounts & Tax returns for two former tax inspectors who are too frustrated to deal with their former employers.

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By Self-Employed and Happy
23rd Jan 2024 09:40

They don't care.

All they really want is to have Tax Payers submitting their own returns directly, but they then don't realise how much the tax gap will actually grow due to tax payer errors, they also don't realise the actual burden of that would crush HMRC.

Thankfully I only have one outstanding problem with HMRC, about a year down the line with no solution but I'm beyond caring.

All they needed to do was take the money they've wasted in MTDITSA and chuck it at recruitment, the lack of efficiency and waste is horrendous, having no cabinet position in charge of HMRC is ridiculous, you need a very public position to be able to throw darts at, HMRC needs scrapping and starting again.

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By Gary Copland
23rd Jan 2024 09:42

When you've waited half an hour for them to answer the phone & then they don't even know the answer, go away to ask a colleague and cut you off. So frustrating.

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By Karen whitehead
23rd Jan 2024 09:42

The bottom line is that HMRC is not fit for purpose. I have received a reply to a letter to the VAT office some 24 months after I wrote, another 17 months and the latest we applied for a transfer of a vat number from a sole trader to a partnership on 23rd March 2023 and received an emailed response last Friday giving me 10 days to reply - in the middle of our busiest time and the information they wanted was how did the client manage to trade from his home address! He is a Plasterer! The staff are not trained properly they are often alone working from home and they are demoralised.

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Replying to Karen whitehead:
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By Alanpryan
23rd Jan 2024 10:32

Still waiting for a VAT registration to be approved for a client. Nine months down the line and numerous chasing letters no action and not even a reply!

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7om
By Tom 7000
23rd Jan 2024 09:48

At least you don't work there.....
Although I hear the pensions good.....

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By DavidWinter
23rd Jan 2024 09:55

When you get to the point where staff are deciding whether you're 'allowed' to call them, after a 40 minute wait, that really is low.

I had an argument on the agent line because a lady said I was 'progress chasing' when I was actually reporting a fault. My client would never have received their refund as it was being held up by a glitch in the HMRC system - there was no progress to chase. She refused to speak to me though and said nothing was holding up the payment, just request it online again, and to call back in a few weeks. I played the game, nothing was refunded and I called back in a few weeks to have the next guy be quite patronising about the fact I should have KNOWN it wouldn't go out! He issued it there and then to be fair but what a pain, and that's ONE issue.

You think it can't get worse, but they find a way.

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Replying to DavidWinter:
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By bendybod
23rd Jan 2024 13:31

I firmly avoid "it can't get any worse" in relation to pretty much anything. I think Covid taught us that it most definitely can!!

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By Truthsayer
23rd Jan 2024 09:56

I cannot recall phoning HMRC at all in the past decade, and it is because I know it will be a waste of time. I always write, and they always ignore, so I always send a reminder, which they always ignore, so I make a complaint, which they usually ignore, so I threaten to escalate it to the adjudicator, which finally gets a result.

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Morph
By kevinringer
23rd Jan 2024 09:58

“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.”

HMRC has admitted on the Agent Forum that HMRC does NOT update PAYE codes as a result of Tax Returns received during January eg changes in untaxed income, changes in employment benefits. What month are most Tax Returns filed? January. Because HMRC completely ignores this information, we have to contact HMRC manually to make each change. I would have thought "the most digitally advanced tax authority in the world" would be able to update PAYE codes with Tax Returns received at any time of the year. But it turns out that is too hard for HMRC. It would save HMRC loads of resources if HMRC simply gave agents the functionality to change codes online. Way back in February 2012 HMRC announced the launch of the Agent Dashboard just 2 months later which would include the functionality to change PAYE codes. 12 years later there's no sign of that functionality. Makes a mockery of HMRC's 10-year plan.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By johnjenkins
23rd Jan 2024 10:24

Kevin, I have said this many times and will keep on saying it. HMRC should leave the admin to us and only deal with investigations and tax collection.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By unclejoe
23rd Jan 2024 12:23

I am a pensioner. I receive income from occupational pensions and from a SIPP. Last year I took a substantial sum out of the SIPP for a non-recurring purchase which took me into a higher tax bracket. For this year they changed my code assuming that my current year income HMRC was similar to last year. I had to repeatedly call and eventually get different agents who just refused to change my code and spoke to me as though I was an imbecile. They seemed unable to comprehend the idea that I control my SIPP income and it it will not take me into higher tax this year. Letters go unanswered. I fear that I will have to claim a refund or wait for it to wash out in adjusted code next year. Allowing users to adjust tax codes would be sooooo much easier.

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Replying to unclejoe:
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By johnjenkins
23rd Jan 2024 12:48

HMRC want you to open a "tax account". Now I'm pretty sure you can adjust your code from the "tax account".

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Replying to johnjenkins:
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By Not Anonymous
23rd Jan 2024 17:41

johnjenkins wrote:

HMRC want you to open a "tax account". Now I'm pretty sure you can adjust your code from the "tax account".

I don't think you can, as in change 1257L to say 2257L.

But you can update your estimated earnings (or PAYE pension) and that will prompt an automatic review or the tax code(s) and if the change makes a material difference a new code(s) will be issued.

This may have helped resolve unclejoe's problem?

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Replying to Not Anonymous:
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By Jane Wanless
23rd Jan 2024 18:55

I've tried 4 or 5 times to correct my codes using the personal tax account. I still have allowances that will be unused against a small pension, while another pension won't be covered by allowances so I'll end up with a refund due. I've given up trying and will complete my tax return as soon as I can in April. Hopefully the refund will be issued promptly...

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Replying to janewanless:
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By FactChecker
24th Jan 2024 00:12

"Hopefully the refund will be issued promptly..."

Reminds me how much I enjoy the sound of pigs limbering up for take-off!

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By OrmeGoat
23rd Jan 2024 10:16

Completing tax returns this year is more difficult than previously largely due to the inefficiency of HMRC. I have always made sure all tax returns have been submitted on time. This year I will struggle. My appeal against any subsequent penalties will highlight the difficulties in dealing with HMRC.

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By Mr J Andrews
23rd Jan 2024 10:37

Clearly under the incumbent head honcho, there is a dereliction of duty within this once respected establishment. The duty of Care and Management within the meaning of the 1970 Taxes Management Acts has fallen by the wayside. One only has to look at the Revenue's internal Admin Law Manual { ADML 3200 } to see how they SHOULD be performing, in collecting the dues :
''....HMRC must apply the law correctly and cannot choose to move from this position because the result seems unfair or unreasonable.........To move away from the strict application of the law would be contrary to the will of Parliament......''
~ Is it fair that accountants - let alone Joe Public - have little, or arguably NO, access to HMRC ?
~ Is it acceptable to eventually get through and be met with ......''....sorry I dunno....''
~ Is it reasonable to be fobbed off with a general dismissal of referring to a useless Online Service ?
~ Is it correct that a minimum half year is the norm a letter response .
~ Is it right that no accountability exists within HMRC to address the obvious mismanagement ?
~ Like Vennells, is it justified that an automatic gong is on its way regardless ?
~ Does Parliament give a #### ?

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Replying to Mr J Andrews:
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By djtax
24th Jan 2024 11:47

Many thanks for the reference to the HMRC Admin Law Manual and the quote from it - I confess that I was not familiar with it. I have a case where HMRC have confirmed (in writing) that they are not following a certain aspect of tax legislation correctly, by imposing an additional constraint not in the legislation, terming it ' a 'non statutory constraint'. I think your quote gives me the wherewithal to fight back!

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Replying to djtax:
Morph
By kevinringer
24th Jan 2024 12:00

djtax wrote:

Many thanks for the reference to the HMRC Admin Law Manual and the quote from it - I confess that I was not familiar with it.


It's clear HMRC are not familiar with it either.
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By JD
23rd Jan 2024 10:42

It is pretty obvious that HMRC are making it as inconvenient as possible to push clients and agents alike into using online services.

They fail to understand that people do not transition when agile developed digital/online services are not good enough, and making traditional methods even worse, by sacking everybody, really is not the right way of going about things.

They fail to understand that the reason accountants need to talk to somebody who understands what they are doing at the other end, is that the issue, at hand, is too complex to deal with by chat bot. This is of course assuming HMRC do still want issues to be resolved first time rather than at the fifth or sixth attempt.

They fail to understand that the mountain of automatically generated letters that are sent out without being checked by anybody at HMRC, just generates a large number of additional responses that are required by agents and clients to put right and/or correct what HMRC have done, saving nobody, time or money.

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Replying to JD:
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By johnjenkins
23rd Jan 2024 10:46

This is all to do with Governments misguided view to get everyone computer and digital savvy. It just ain't gonna work. Even some kids are not computer and digitally literate.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
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By spilly
23rd Jan 2024 13:18

Some are not literate, let alone digitally.

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Replying to spilly:
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By johnjenkins
23rd Jan 2024 13:35

Unfortunately being non literate has been about for a long time.

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Morph
By kevinringer
23rd Jan 2024 10:47

Instead of focusing on their core activity of collecting tax, HMRC have decided to spend their money on vanity projects such as MTD and 30/60-day CGT which don't collect any extra tax and merely complicate the process of taxpayer declaration. HMRC would have been better spending the £1.3 billion cost of MTD on fixing HMRC's existing IT problems and better resourcing their helplines and processing departments. Every new HMRC IT project seems to break more than it fixes eg VAT Registration Service. I don't think HMRC staff continuing to work from home helps.

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By Husbandofstinky
23rd Jan 2024 10:54

Yesterday rang at 8am. 40 minute wait. Tax payer's return submitted in August, no liability showing.

One of those 'not captured' forms. Agent can only refer it to the capture team with a response time by 17 April, until then no liability showing as due.

Suggested tax payer make payment and hoping it won't be auto pinged back due to the credit.

Obvious concerns re interest and late payment surcharge notices. And no, we don't want to go down the appeal route.

As with all agents, the last thing we want to do is to contact HMRC, but there are the odd cases which it is unavoidable. In the meantime we just jump through as many alternative potential routes to avoid contact.

A shower of the proverbial imo. I could go onto the second tax payer's issue on the same call, but we all know the outcome. Pointless.

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By Tom+Cross
23rd Jan 2024 11:11

I really do question the quality of our civil service, in the current era. Firstly, it's neither civil and hasn't offered a service, for donkeys years.
The hallmarks of HM Revenue & Customs are; ignorance and disrespect, in equal measure.
A client telephoned, yesterday, to explain that, following the submission of his tax return, HMRC had radically altered his notice of coding, which would result in him having 'estimated' underpayments being deducted from his salary, for the last three months of the tax year.
As we are effectively 'banned' from speaking to HMRC about Paye enquiries, I took my chance with the online chat arrangement. The operator for HMRC couldn't, or wouldn't, grasp the fact that the client was under self-assessment and any potential underpayment, or indeed overpayment, would be cleared in the next return (for 2023/24). No matter what I said there was a reluctance to give ground and when I looked at the time expended, it approached 45 minutes!
I eventually 'ended the chat'.
Good luck to all you younger agents in the profession that I once loved. My word, you're in for a roller coaster of a ride.

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Replying to Tom+Cross:
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By Self-Employed and Happy
23rd Jan 2024 12:51

We are in our 30s, invested time and money to be Qualified etc and last year I did think about just throwing it all away including the business.

Move somewhere hot and just be an employee.

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Replying to Self-Employed and Happy:
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By johnjenkins
23rd Jan 2024 13:33

None of the main Parties give much incentive to the self-employed or the entrepreneur. It's all down to manipulation and control. Before Maggie came along it was "big is beautiful", then we had an opening of our talent. Now we are heading back to the "big is not so beautiful" as the PO have shown us.
Come on Nigel, don't take too long to get back into politics.

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Replying to Self-Employed and Happy:
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By bendybod
23rd Jan 2024 13:37

Now there's a plan!

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Replying to bendybod:
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By johnjenkins
23rd Jan 2024 13:42

Is the grass greener on the other side?

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Replying to johnjenkins:
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By Tom+Cross
23rd Jan 2024 15:05

I just wonder, if it might be.
We have a great deal to be proud of, in the UK, that I admit. However, I just wonder if we could make life easier and much pleasanter for many, many more people, who don't have the same opportunities, that I've had.
The public sector could do with a major overhaul and be subject to strict tests of efficiency. From my perspective that seems an unlikely outcome, as turkeys rarely vote for Christmas.

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Replying to Tom+Cross:
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By Not Anonymous
23rd Jan 2024 17:45

Tom+Cross wrote:

I really do question the quality of our civil service, in the current era. Firstly, it's neither civil and hasn't offered a service, for donkeys years.
The hallmarks of HM Revenue & Customs are; ignorance and disrespect, in equal measure.
A client telephoned, yesterday, to explain that, following the submission of his tax return, HMRC had radically altered his notice of coding, which would result in him having 'estimated' underpayments being deducted from his salary, for the last three months of the tax year.
As we are effectively 'banned' from speaking to HMRC about Paye enquiries, I took my chance with the online chat arrangement. The operator for HMRC couldn't, or wouldn't, grasp the fact that the client was under self-assessment and any potential underpayment, or indeed overpayment, would be cleared in the next return (for 2023/24). No matter what I said there was a reluctance to give ground and when I looked at the time expended, it approached 45 minutes!
I eventually 'ended the chat'.
Good luck to all you younger agents in the profession that I once loved. My word, you're in for a roller coaster of a ride.

It maybe should have been easier to resolve but in that instance HMRC are going by how the latest return was completed.

Coding changes like that can easily be avoided with a tick in the right box (or maybe no tick depending on the software being used).

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Replying to Not Anonymous:
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By Tom+Cross
23rd Jan 2024 19:11

The ‘correct’ boxes were ticked!
This is an organisation, closely related to The Post Office, with absolutely no vision, or direction

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By ruth.julian
23rd Jan 2024 15:05

I did my22/23 tax return online with a payment of tax due. Next day I got the full amount of my payments on account refunded to my bank account. I repaid the amount to HMRC 2 days later. 2 days after that I looked at my online account to see neither the first repayment nor the second payment were shown, an incorrect amount of additional tax to pay on the return and 3 amounts of interest to be added to my account on 31 January. What chance MTD for ITSA will work?

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Replying to ruth.julian:
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By johnjenkins
23rd Jan 2024 15:29

Welcome to our world.

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Replying to ruth.julian:
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By petestar1969
23rd Jan 2024 16:43

MTD for ITSA? Software written by Fujitsu? I would say there are two chances of it working, fat and thin.

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Replying to petestar1969:
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By johnjenkins
23rd Jan 2024 16:58

Apparently the IT people (who work for Fujitsu) have come out on indefinite strike because they want more money. So MTDITSA, perhaps 2028?

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By petestar1969
23rd Jan 2024 16:41

Here's a good one. Limited company client, 31 December year end, ceased trading summer of 2022.

Final accounts to 31 December 2022 submitted, including refund claim for loss carry back, in April 2023.

Many attempts, from me and the client, to get HMRC to release the refund. They wanted him to nominate a bank account for the refund but his bank had closed the company bank account due to lack of activity.

Eventually, just before Christmas they sent a cheque for the refund made out to the company to my office (we acted as Registered Office). I had to send it to him in the post, he had to open a new bank account to bank the cheque and we could then let the company be closed down.

To cap it all today I get a reminder to file the 31 December 2023 CT600.....

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By Self-Employed and Happy
24th Jan 2024 11:41

On the phone to HMRC this morning and thought of this thread, my issue today...

Client set up DD for PAYE 12 weeks ago, their account says "Yes" for DD Set Up, my agent portal says "Yes" for DD set up.

Have HMRC taken the last two PAYE payments by DD? Nope

Have HMRC applied late payment interest? Yep

A catalogue of failure and consistently [***] service, over the past few years I have honestly though about keeping a diary of all of my HMRC interactions to show how they at times heavily impact my efficiency as a business, then just post it publicly to see how many others join in.

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By tabrop66
24th Jan 2024 14:21

I avoid ringing HMRC at every opportunity but previously have taken comfort that there was the Agent Dedicated Line if I really had to ring. I just don't know how they can disrupt the line at the busiest time for self assessment queries. That said, I also have to ask what action the accountancy, tax governing bodies are taking on behalf of their members with the Senior officials at HMRC?

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Replying to tabrop66:
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By johnjenkins
24th Jan 2024 15:22

"That said, I also have to ask what action the accountancy, tax governing bodies are taking on behalf of their members with the Senior officials at HMRC?"
Nothing as usual.

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By euanjohn
26th Jan 2024 09:57

The only way things will improve is for the ICAEW to take out a full page ad every day in the Daily Mail (or similar) on which it publishes, on a no-names basis, some of the more egregious examples of HMRC's errors, inefficiencies and shortcomings. Within a week, seeing his ill-deserved knighthood slipping away, I guarantee that Harra would take steps to sort it out. They won't do that of course, they think that writing the occasional polite letter will make a difference - the football equivalent of trying to play the beautiful game while the opposition are belting you on the ankle every time the ref turns his back.

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