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Agent Dedicated Line to be restricted again for over six weeks

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From 17 April the Agent Dedicated Line will be restricted to calls relating to late filing penalties and PAYE coding enquiries, with agents encouraged to use online services instead. 

6th Apr 2023
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HMRC has confirmed that between 17 April and 2 June the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL) will only answer calls relating to self assessment late filing penalties and PAYE coding notices, while agents with other enquiries will have to use the main helpline or are being directed to use the online services. 

HMRC said that this temporary change is to reserve capacity for agents who need one-to-one support at the start of the tax year.

This is the second time this year that HMRC has restricted the ADL to reserve capacity on the line for the operators to cater to certain issues. 

From December until the end of self assessment season, the line was reserved for “complex queries” so handlers could focus on “the highest-priority self assessment calls”. 

“To make sure we can give the best-possible service to all customers at one of our busiest times, we’re making a temporary change to our Agent Dedicated Line,” said Richard West, director of personal tax operations. “It’s particularly important at the start of the tax year that we reserve capacity to support agents who need one-to-one help with enquiries they have about self assessment late filing penalties and PAYE coding notices issued in 2023/24, and that’s what these changes will achieve.”

Agents can also call the main helpline to get their questions answered, although HMRC has said this route is likely to take longer than usual. The restriction of the ADL means that those call handlers will not answer any progress-chasing calls. 

Online services 

HMRC is instead encouraging agents and taxpayers to use online services instead, which the tax department said are “quick and easy to use”. 

The push towards using HMRC’s online services instead of jamming the dedicated line comes as the Simplifying and modernising HMRC’s income tax services discussion document released on Budget day outlined the tax department’s ambition to be a digital-first department. 

“The introduction of good digital channels has helped reduce contact by phone and post. However, HMRC needs an even higher proportion of taxpayers to self-serve online, so that it can provide the best-possible service to all,” said the consultation document. 

It later added that HMRC plans to provide “easy-to-access digital services” to aid the digital channel shift. “Once this is in place, HMRC will provide less choice around the non-digital channels it offers to taxpayers (such as telephony and post) to reduce the use of these channels, where users are able to go digital.” 

During the self assessment season peak, HMRC chief executive Jim Harra told the Treasury Committee that the 27-minute wait times would fall “when more customers use our online services”.

Restricted times

HMRC has recently taken to restricting helpline services to help manage capacity within the organisation. As well as restricting the ADL earlier this year, HMRC also temporarily reduced the VAT and corporation tax helplines to only four days a week during February and March in 2022 after a “test exercise” in December 2021 as it worked through a growing backlog. 

Meanwhile, priority access to the dedicated line was removed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as all services experienced long delays. The line wasn’t restored until 14 June 2021.

Recently, the professional bodies united to urge the Chancellor to treat investment in HMRC as “a top priority” in the Budget, as the accountancy bodies raised concern that “customer service levels delivered by HMRC have fallen to an unacceptably low level”.

How will the temporary restriction affect your practice and how you’re able to advise clients? Let us know below. 

Replies (61)

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By Alanpryan
06th Apr 2023 11:46

Not sure why they bother with it anyway. Often takes ages to get through and then you have to listen to 2 minutes of guff that agents don't need to know

Thanks (17)
Replying to Alanpryan:
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By Hugo Fair
06th Apr 2023 11:54

They don't ... 'bother with it' that is.

HMRC chief executive Jim Harra told the Treasury Committee that the 27 minute wait times would fall “when more customers use our online services” ...
... or in plain English, wait times will fall when people stop calling.
The man thinks he's a genius - and unfortunately his paymasters seem to agree!

Thanks (24)
Replying to Alanpryan:
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By Chris.Smith
06th Apr 2023 14:02

"Don't forget to treat our staff with respect" being one of them.

Thanks (2)
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By DavidWinter
06th Apr 2023 11:47

Translated from HMRC speak - we won't be rushing with those CIS refunds, so don't bother chasing until June.

Thanks (18)
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By TB93
06th Apr 2023 11:47

What a joke, the online system is pretty useless in sorting out problems, it's more for information purposes than resolutions.
Hire more staff.

Thanks (25)
Replying to TB93:
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By Michael C Feltham
06th Apr 2023 12:10

"Hire more staff."

You forgot the critical bit...

Who actually know what they are supposed to be doing!

Thanks (14)
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By Hugo Fair
06th Apr 2023 11:48

Reminds me of a conversation I overheard in a (large retail chain) store recently:
"No. As I've told countless people this week, we no longer stock that item - there's no demand for it anymore"!

Thanks (36)
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By Hometing
06th Apr 2023 11:48

Last time they did this in January, I was told to ring back in Feb. When I rang back in Feb, they told me it was too late and it needed dealing with no later than 31st Jan.

It's getting a bit silly now.

Thanks (21)
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By michael2022A
06th Apr 2023 11:48

Does HMRC not understand that no Agent wants to call HMRC and wait for ages and a phone call is the last resort, if we could resolve queries online we would!!

Thanks (50)
Replying to michael2022A:
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By philaccountant
06th Apr 2023 11:55

A query raised with the online chat box recently - after waiting for 10 minutes for an agent and getting through security:

"Has a UTR been issued for client X?"
"No, a UTR has not yet been issued yet, goodbye."
Chat ended. No opportunity to follow up. Agent didn't ask if that was all. Just jogged on.

The UTR had been issued, was either a lie or they just couldn't be bothered to do their job properly.

No opportunity to complain about the poor handling. Just time wasted.

Thanks (5)
Replying to michael2022A:
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By 97mwill
06th Apr 2023 12:14

Exactly, and further to that, if they invested more into dealing properly and promptly with Agents and making all information readily available that an authorised agent would expect to have i.e. earnings info, PAYE coding details on all clients not just some etc., we could in fact reduce their workload long term as we would deal with it and wouldn't have to call as often.

Thanks (6)
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By Retrocanary
06th Apr 2023 11:49

I'm reminded of the classic episode of Frasier where the brothers decide to start a restaurant and both thinking of different ways of restricting access to make it as exclusive as possible (unlisted phone number, no signage on the door etc.). Martin then sarcastically replies: "yeah, and you could even have a sniper posted on the roof who shoots people as they try to get in."

Apparently, Niles and Frasier have won the government contract to facilitate HMRC's call centres.

Thanks (19)
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By John Snowden
06th Apr 2023 11:49

Well, I've already forwarded HMRC's email to my MP, as a complaint requesting her personal response. Not that it will do any good...

Thanks (9)
Replying to John Snowden:
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By Deanivy
06th Apr 2023 12:09

I did the same John!!! Victoria will love us

Thanks (2)
Replying to John Snowden:
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By Dinks
06th Apr 2023 12:28

No point in writing to my MP. She is only interested in child-care reforms as she has had two children since she became an MP. 2019

Thanks (3)
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By Echo761
06th Apr 2023 11:50

Effectively "kettling" people to use the on line systems.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Echo761:
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By Paul Crowley
06th Apr 2023 12:25

What online systems? Presumably email

Thanks (3)
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By AS44NG
06th Apr 2023 11:51

I'm thinking of advising HMRC that we will now only correspond with them via a new and dedicated phone line, between certain hours on certain days, with which they will be subject to a minimum 30 minute delay in being answered after being interrogated by our AI bot asking such question as "please state the reason for your call", then the bot repeating an incorrect version of what was actually said at least twice.

Come to think of it, that would be ridiculous ...

Thanks (15)
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By Crouchy
06th Apr 2023 11:51

what a disgrace

Frustrating for us as agents, but its taxpayers who'll suffer at the end of the day

I wonder how many firms have lost clients due to HMRC making their accountant look bad because they can't get things done due to HMRC's poor service?

Thanks (13)
Replying to Crouchy:
By Nick Graves
06th Apr 2023 12:15

Crouchy wrote:

what a disgrace

Frustrating for us as agents, but its taxpayers who'll suffer at the end of the day

I wonder how many firms have lost clients due to HMRC making their accountant look bad because they can't get things done due to HMRC's poor service?

Most of my clients do understand that HMRC is run by King Ulysses, or something like that...I keep mentioning it a lot.

I wonder how many victims HMRC is going to lose due to their poor service? They'll be whining about the increasing 'tax gap' as things unravel.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Crouchy:
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By Paul Crowley
06th Apr 2023 12:27

One only so far this year
Subcontractor

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By Curious1
06th Apr 2023 11:56

If we gave this kind of service to our clients we would be out of work!!

Thanks (6)
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By Hugo Fair
06th Apr 2023 12:00

“It’s particularly important at the start of the tax year that we reserve capacity to support agents who need one-to-one help with enquiries they have about self assessment late filing penalties and PAYE coding notices issued in 2023/24”

So they really believe that focussing on areas/processes that are already broken (to the detriment of tackling queries that might be thought of as preventing future issues) is a sound judgement?

They couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag even if you gave them unlimited scissors (which they wouldn't use due to a perception that they infringe H&S or GDPR or something somehow)!

Thanks (5)
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By Tom+Cross
06th Apr 2023 12:02

If Harra was seriously embracing digital technology then, why oh why, can't agents communicate by email? Well, the answers simple. They don't have sufficient resources, which is probably true.

Thanks (6)
Replying to Tom+Cross:
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By legerman
07th Apr 2023 10:58

Tom+Cross wrote:

If Harra was seriously embracing digital technology then, why oh why, can't agents communicate by email? Well, the answers simple. They don't have sufficient resources, which is probably true.

A few weeks ago I did an online request for PAYE set up. Phoned them up chasing a couple of weeks ago and the call handler said they would receive them by 31st March. If not received by then (it hasn't) then to write in!! So much for digitalisation.

In 2017 I contacted the Swedish tax authority on behalf of a client. I sent an email, which was responded to within 24 hours. They were extremely helpful with prompt replies to questions. I was mightily impressed and thought if only HMRC were this organised.

Thanks (0)
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By taxadvisercarlisle
06th Apr 2023 12:06

I love how they think all problems can be solved using their online services. Do they actually think we would bother calling if we could do what we needed to online?

Thanks (18)
Morph
By kevinringer
06th Apr 2023 12:11

"...priority access to the dedicated line was removed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as all services experienced long delays. The line wasn’t restored until 14 June 2021."

I contest that it still hasn't been restored. When the ADL was launched there was no pre-recorded waffle and calls were answered within 2 rings. Today, we have to listen to all sorts of pre-recorded rubbish, press 1 for this and 2 for that, then wait...and wait...and wait. I usually have to wait about 15 minutes currently, but a few weeks ago I had to wait over an hour.

Pre-Covid the ADL was open weekday evenings and Saturdays = 68 hours a week. Today it is only open 50 hours a week. That by itself will increase load on the ADL by 36% during current opening hours. But that assumes the level of calls remain the same. That's not the case. I am having to progress chase far more matters now compared to pre-Covid. And HMRC have launched new regimes eg 60-day CGT that didn't exist pre-Covid. And HMRC have decided we now have to phone to request SA refunds. I would say the number of calls I now have to make to HMRC are twice the level of pre-Covid. In effect, doubling the 68-hour level of calls = 136 hours shoe-horned into 50 minutes. No wonder there is so much demand. And that assumes HMRC have the same number of staff on the ADL post-Covid as they did pre-Covid. This gives rise to another problem: HMRC still have home-working staff and they keep dropping calls which means having to phone again putting yet more demand on the ADL.

If HMRC want to reduce demand on the ADL, HMRC need to:

1. Improve their service levels and reduce their processing backlogs.
2. Improve the accuracy of their processing.
3. Give agents the tools to self-serve (to use HMRC-speak) so that we can achieve online what currently we can only achieve by phoning the ADL.

No doubt others can add more to the above list.

Thanks (14)
Morph
By kevinringer
06th Apr 2023 12:15

"From 17 April the Agent Dedicated Line will be restricted to calls relating to late filing penalties and PAYE coding enquiries..."

Aren't the majority of coding notices issued in January? If so, why make this change now?

Way back in February 2012 HMRC told agents that they were launching the Agent Dashboard a mere 2 months later. The Agent Dashboard would give agents the functionality to amend codes online. As the announcement was a mere 2 months before launch, the system must been in final testing at the time. But it was never launched and 11 years later, we're still waiting. If HMRC was to give us the tool, we wouldn't need to phone the ADL at all.

Thanks (5)
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By justsotax
06th Apr 2023 12:16

I wonder how many taxpayers will give up on dealing with their own affairs due to the inability to access help other than 'online'. I wonder how many people doing their own tax return will simply take the most tax beneficial route if they have any queries that cannot be addressed....who would blame them....

Thanks (1)
Morph
By kevinringer
06th Apr 2023 12:17

"From 17 April the Agent Dedicated Line will be restricted to calls relating to late filing penalties ...."

HMRC have issued penalties every year, so why make the change to the ADL this year? I didn't we could appeal a penalty over the phone. If so, what exactly can we do about penalties on the ADL?

Thanks (1)
Replying to kevinringer:
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By Paul Crowley
06th Apr 2023 12:32

In reality is is being shut off
Has anyone ever phoned to appeal or to get codings sorted that early in the year?

Thanks (4)
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By jaxtax
06th Apr 2023 12:20

I agree with many of the previous responses that calling HMRC for us is a last resort. If HMRC's online services that we can access worked efficiently and there was not such a huge backlog in dealing with any correspondence then we wouldn't need to call ! when will they listen and learn

Thanks (1)
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By Michael C Feltham
06th Apr 2023 12:23

My approach to problems with HMRC now, is to write to Jim Harra.

My overriding ethos is "Talk to the organ grinder - not the monkey!"

Interestingly, only two days ago I did succeed (after a 30 minute wait) to actually speak to an "Adviser". Problem one was that she was foreign and I could hardly comprehend what she was blathering about.

Problem two, was she hadn't a wee clue what the hell she was doing.

After 10 minutes and as my blood pressure was rising to the stratosphere, I did finally manage to elicit from her that I could expect an answer from the "Appeals Team" to a letter sent on a client's behalf in early February, in, wait for this...early May!

Meantime, HMRC's dumb brain computer system keeps on churning out demands and penalties and my client is not happy.

What we need is a Tax Strike by all self employed and close companies.

Unlike France, however, I doubt most Brits have brass ones.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Michael C Feltham:
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By Open all hours
06th Apr 2023 12:57

They are a ‘diverse team’ so by definition some of them have to be terminally useless.
Sadly the balance is being tipped more severely in this direction.

Thanks (1)
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By Caerlyr
06th Apr 2023 12:34

Is it April 1st?
Surely the restriction should be the other way round - ADL helping Agents with the complex queries and only use other means of communication for Penalty Appeals etc
If I ever question why it is taking so long for replies I ususally get "it is knock on effect from Covid" a year ago maybe but not now

Thanks (5)
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By Open all hours
06th Apr 2023 12:54

Dear Mr Harra,
It might be as well if you simply went now before you are embarrassed by the customary knighthood for services not rendered.
Yours very sincerely,
Agents representing hard working tax payers.

Thanks (9)
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By tedbuck
06th Apr 2023 13:00

I saw this email this morning and to be honest I thought it was a joke - a spoof put out by some fed-up accountant who wanted to show the world what a bunch of idiots HMRC now were.

I thought that MRC wasting my taxpayer's money on a Utube video just couldn't be true. And then all the rest of the tools and viewers which probably don't work.

And then - the tips for when you must use post - utterly mind-blowing!

So I have plotted my forward method of dealing with HMRC.

1. Everything except SAR and CT600 submissions will be by post.
2. After 3 weeks a copy will be sent to HMRC.
3. After another 3 weeks a letter of complaint will go in.
4. After another 3 weeks a letter to the Chancellor will follow with a further complaint
5. All the time will be recorded and if anything gets settled a bill will be submitted to HMRC for the time spent due to their inefficiency.
6. When HMRC then get stroppy with the client- as they do - I could just send them another copy of the correspondence and tell them, politely of course, to go away.

Now, if everyone did that how long would it be before HMRC ground to a halt and had to start using its collective brain ( if it has one).

There are lots of ways we can make their life difficult should we choose to do so. For example we could sit on all the tax returns and send them all in in September and leave the CT returns until the last day of the submission period.

I could say take 6 weeks to reply to their letters but since they hardly write any this would be rather ineffective but how about issuing judgements against them for unpaid repayments? I mean their debt management department is very good at chasing non-existent debts so a bit of [***] for tat wouldn't hurt.

There must be other things we could do to make a point. At the end of the day they might get rid of Jim Haha and put someone in who could actually do the job. But I think it would take a big shock to get HMG off its complacent bottom to realise that there is actually something serious wrong with the system.

To be honest I despair of it ever working again.

Thanks (1)
Replying to tedbuck:
Morph
By kevinringer
06th Apr 2023 13:13

tedbuck wrote:

Now, if everyone did that how long would it be before HMRC ground to a halt ...

HMRC has already ground to a halt. Instead of tacking it's problems, it is tackling symptoms eg ADL demand.

Thanks (1)
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By gillsoffice
06th Apr 2023 13:07

Absolutely disgraceful! As others have already said, if we could find the answer online then we would. It is very disrespectful to assume we (or any tax payer) have time to wait over an hour for them to answer the phone and then, if it's not the agent line, they probably won't know the answer to our query anyway.
No doubt they are all working (allegedly) from home or off sick with covid. They don't need yet more of our money thrown at them, they need to get a grip and deliver the service they are paid for already (as do all of the other useless Govt departments).

Thanks (5)
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By GHarr497688
06th Apr 2023 13:07

I refuse to call HMRC anyway. Their staff are often rude and unhelpful . They either try and avoid the question by saying security isn't adequate or they can't answer. The online chat is just as bad as they skirt round the question. I am not sure what they do with the post as you hardly ever get a reply. I often get completely different answers from different if I have to call. It's got to a point now for nearly every reply to a written request goes through my Local MP. The problem is because the fail to deal in a professional way they get follow up calls and letters which compounds the problem. Unless proper trained staff are employed or they make the tax system less complicated with far fewer taxes then the system won't change. I have the same problem with all larges organisation such as Local Council , Virgin Media , Tui Group , John Lewis etc. Government need to single out massive organisation and make them accountable for ignoring correspondence in particular.

Thanks (3)
Replying to GHarr497688:
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By legerman
07th Apr 2023 11:07

GHarr497688 wrote:

I refuse to call HMRC anyway. Their staff are often rude and unhelpful . They either try and avoid the question by saying security isn't adequate or they can't answer. The online chat is just as bad as they skirt round the question

My experience is completely the opposite. In 12 years I can only think of one occasion where the experience hasn't been positive. To be fair my enquiries are not complex as I only deal with small businesses, but I've found the staff on PAYE and ADL to be polite and responsive. Same on the odd occasion I've dealt with the CT helpline.

Thanks (1)
Morph
By kevinringer
06th Apr 2023 13:10

HMRC restricted the ADL to "complex" issues in January. Now, HMRC are going to restrict the ADL to these two non-complex issues, as if penalties and codings only occur this time of year. HMRC have never done this in previous years. Can we expect further restrictions in future? Where will this lead to? Could we end up with the ADL timetabled so that at any point in time it will only deal with a limited range of matters eg P800 queries June to August only? The ADL has been in decline since Covid. Are HMRC planning to make it handle such a limited range of matters that it can be quietly closed down?

Thanks (5)
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By Self-Employed and Happy
06th Apr 2023 13:33

They're just [***], incredible so much coverage is given to how various Cabinet ministers spend money within the various sectors but not a second thought is given to the most important department of the lot, the one that brings IN the money.

Thanks (6)
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By anthony stevens
06th Apr 2023 13:51

Customers...different definition to mine.!

Thanks (6)
Replying to anthony stevens:
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By taxinfo
06th Apr 2023 16:12

Mine too and every dictionary I can name including the OED, Collins and Chambers.

Customer (n): a person who purchases goods or services from another.

Most definitely does not apply to the relationship between HMRC and taxpayers.

Thanks (1)
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By flightdeck
06th Apr 2023 14:10

UK public sector is no longer turning up for work. Working from home is an abject failure.

Thanks (9)
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By Mr J Andrews
06th Apr 2023 14:42

Proper Gander to the extreme. Something HMRC are becoming exceptionally good at .
I daresay the opening - to reserve capacity for agents who need one to one support - should read
........to reserve capacity for HMRC staff in need of one to one support.

Thanks (1)
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By Mallock
06th Apr 2023 15:07

In the main, when I have to contact HMRC about a Notice of Coding, it's because HMRC have messed it up. e.g. client normally paid £2,400 into his pension but last year had an inheritance and put an additional one off £20K in. HMRC have assumed he will do the same this year and have amended his code to include much higher pension contributions.
Thankfully my client was smart enough to notice and call me.
If HMRC didn't keep messing up the tax codes they wouldn't need to restrict access to the Agent's Line for important things we actually need it for.

Thanks (1)
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By Ian McTernan CTA
06th Apr 2023 15:09

IF WE DIDN'T HAVE TO CALL, WE WOULDN'T!!!!!

Sorry, but sometimes HMRC's attitude jsut really annoys me: trust me, if we could find the answer in the mess that is the online offering, we wouldn't have to call...

If we could email, we would...but HMRC don't like to move beyond the 19th century.

If we knew a letter might be answered before 2024, we'd write...

Instead, HMRC's solution is to force everyone online and when you encounter a problem, tough- look it up online (even though it can't be solved that way).

I've no idea who comes up with these bright ideas, and no idea why our Institutes don't take HMRC to task over this and many other issues- they need to be a lot more vocal (including press releases) objecting to these major issues.

Thanks (6)
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By Justin Bryant
06th Apr 2023 15:22

You all know who is really to blame here and you all know what to do about it at the next general election. That's the only language these people understand (otherwise you should expect to be treated with contempt in this manner).

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