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HMRC help for tax agents falls short

Tax agents are finding the HMRC agent helpline is not answering their questions and the HMRC twitter account doesn’t understand basic points. Where else can tax agents go for help?

19th Jan 2021
Tax Writer Taxwriter Ltd
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It's January and tax agents need urgent answers from HMRC where their client is at risk of a penalty if tax forms can’t be submitted accurately or on time. In such cases they may reach for the phone and dial the Agent Helpline, or perhaps ask the HMRC Customer Support twitter feed.

Hopeless helpline

The Agent dedicated helpline (0300 200 3311) is supposed to be reserved for tax agents who need to sort out issues relating to self assessment or PAYE for their clients. It's open on weekdays from 8am to 6pm, but recently there have been long waits of 30 minutes or more to have a call answered.

"I spent 46 minutes in a call queue the other day," said AccountingWEB member Mark Peters of the lengthy wait times.

The ICAEW has asked HMRC to extend the opening hours for all HMRC helplines for the remainder of January.

The bug-bear for many tax agents is not just the wait to be answered, but when the call is picked up it has been transferred to the general SA helpline for taxpayers. The HMRC staff then seem unable to cope with the type of questions agents are asking. AccountingWEB member Cat's whiskers commented in a recent Any Answers Live session. "Operators have no idea you're an agent when they take the call."

HMRC confirmed to AccountingWEB that it has removed preferential treatment of the Agent dedicated line as part of its reprioritisation exercise to help it manage the staff available to answer phones during the pandemic.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “Like other service organisations, we have been impacted by the pandemic and we’re doing all we can to offer the best possible service. Wait times on some of our helplines are longer than we would like, and we’re sorry about the inconvenience this causes agents at busy times.”

A top tip from Kirsty McGregor is to call HMRC as soon as the lines open at 8am, if you really have to.    

Twitter titter

The HMRC twitter feed is open from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Saturday, and from 9am to at least 5pm on Sunday, so it may be a good place to ask a quick question if you can’t find the answer on gov.uk. But be aware, you will need to explain what you need in simple language as the HMRC employee may not understand basic tax terms. 

On Friday evening my friend Patricia was trying to register a client on the online ATED service in order to submit a return for the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED). These returns are due by 30 April within the year (1 April to 31 March) the charge refers to, or within 30 days of acquisition of the property for the first year. Penalties apply where the ATED return is late, even by one day, whether or not any tax is payable.   

The ATED online service has been developed in isolation from the Agent Service Account (ASA), and has a separate agent authorisation procedure. In order to submit a client’s ATED return, that client must first register for the service and request that the agent is authorised to act in respect of ATED returns. Only when the request to authorise has been accepted by the agent can the ATED return be submitted.      

Patricia couldn’t get accept the client’s electronic request for her to act for ATED, so asked HMRC Customer Support twitter. The account hilariously replied:

“Hi Patricia, Can you tell me what ATED stands for so I can look into this for you.”

If you type “ATED tax” into google the first hit is the HMRC overview guidance on ATED.

HMRC commented "Our customer service twitter account is for basic queries from taxpayers and is not appropriate for more technical queries."

The exchange sent #taxtwitter bemoaning the quality of training for HMRC operatives and how it was different in their day. However, Keith Gordon raised a serious point:

“What makes this particularly shocking is the regularity of HMRC issuing penalties on the basis that taxpayers are expected to know about arcane laws and that (somewhere) the relevant information is on HMRC's website had they known to look there in the first place.”

Agent Forum

If you have a more complicated question about a HMRC procedure, a good place to ask may be the HMRC Agent Forum. You need to be a member of a professional accounting or tax body to be accepted on to the forum.

There are separate topic groups, including one dedicated to SA 2021. The HMRC admin will forward your question to the appropriate department and come back with an answer, but that can take days. In the meantime, other Agent Forum users may chip in with useful advice.

Other sources of help

If you are stuck with a technical tax or accounting query try asking your professional body; they all have technical officers who may be receiving similar queries from many members.

Also don’t be shy about asking on our very own Any Answers, as someone else may well have come across the same issue.

Record and preserve

As a final tip, when you do get through to one of the HMRC helplines, record what was said and by whom. This evidence could be vital should the issue ever get as far as the tax tribunal, so record and preserve the question and the answer in a form you can access in years to come.  

Replies (64)

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By SteveHa
19th Jan 2021 13:20

Quote:
a good place to ask may be the HMRC Agent Forum. You need to be a member of a professional accounting or tax body to be accepted on to the forum.

To make matters worse, you have to be personally a member of a PT. Despite my working in ICAEW regulated practices for the past 10 years, because I personally am not a member of a PB, I'm excluded.

I wouldn't dream of using Twitter to ask HMRC questions (not to mention I don't have a Twitter account and have no intention of making one).

The abandonment of the ADL is a real blow for people like me. It's hit and miss whether the person at the other end has sufficient knowledge to answer, and it's hit and miss whether anyone answers or not in the first place.

One may believe that HMRC are going out of the way to prevent assistance, in the hope that the penalty take will be increased.

Thanks (3)
Replying to SteveHa:
Morph
By kevinringer
21st Jan 2021 21:10

Steve, I'm a member of the Forum. Questions go unanswered for months and when the answers are posted they're sometimes not for the question. Then HMRC lock the thread before the agent can say 'you've not answered the question'.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
19th Jan 2021 13:57

I had a chaser call today from HMRC for information sent to them around the 20th December.

The implication being the post has not been opened and allocated to the correct department some 3 weeks later.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
19th Jan 2021 14:00

You will be much better off joining a professional service that answers queries, or investing in some decent research material, rather than wasting time trying to talk to someone in HMRC who won't really understand the situation or ask the right questions and then gives incomplete or incorrect advice.

Had a fine example of this the other week when the ex wife of a client had called HMRC with a query, failed to ask the right questions and hence was given the wrong answer and then quoted it to me as if it was gospel (and her solicitor even repeated the fact that 'HMRC had said so'!!).

Unless it's something you have to discuss with HMRC, like TUPE furlough claims, I'd avoid asking HMRC anything.

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Tornado
By Tornado
19th Jan 2021 14:48

Yes, what a mess.

I chased up a 2020 Tax Return submitted online on the 1st December 2020 that had not been processed by early January and after waiting 40 minutes to speak to an 'advisor' I was told that this would be looked into and that I would get a ring back the next day. After several days of no ring back, I phoned the helpline again and 30 minutes later I asked again why the Return had not been processed. I was assured that this was now in progress, but no reason given as to why I did not receive a phone back.

A few days later I saw that the Return had been processed and as my client had already paid the amount due, I thought the problem had been solved ... but NO.

Today I received a penalty notice for my client for late filing, which was a bit odd as the filing deadline has not been reached yet. I phoned the Agent Helpline, which gives you a message this is for Agents Only and if you are not an Agent, then they cannot help you. After about 30 minutes I was speaking to an rather abrupt lady who in the fewest words possible and avoiding admitting that HMRC had made an error, revealed that the Return had been manually entered by HMRC but had been logged as a paper return and thus it was treated as late. She reluctantly said that she would log the error so that it can be corrected. When I asked if HMRC could write to me and my client to explain the error to my client who is bound to think this was my fault, this operator took a rather pompous approach as though this was an outrageous suggestion, and when she refused to accept that there had been a message telling me I was being connected to a dedicated Agent line, she completely lost it, called me rude and ended the call. I can say that if that conversation was recorded then I would be very happy for it to be made public as I don't think I was rude at all, even when effectively being called a liar.

The upshot was that I could not be sure that this lady would do what she said she would do, so I rang the helpline again. Same message that this is a dedicated Agent line and I would not be helped if I was not an Agent.

After another long wait I was connected to a gentleman and started telling him the story and at the point that I said I had phoned earlier and had spoken to an 'Advisor' who I felt had been rude to me, I was cut off. It seems that it is a sin to criticise bad service provided by other 'Advisors'.

I tried again and after another long wait I was connected to another 'Advisor' and I could immediately tell that he really wanted to help me. I did not mention the other calls and he searched through his files and agreed that the penalty needed to be cancelled and he would arrange for this. He made no mention of the previous calls or that the first 'Advisor' had said that she would cancel the penalty and it is clear that she made no effort to do this.

As has been said repeatedly on AWEB, these helpline 'Advisors' come two distinct types, those that are will to help and have the knowledge to do so and those that don't really want to be taking to anyone and are of no help at all. It is clear that if you get a bad 'Advisor' then ring back and perhaps ring back again until you speak to an 'Advisor' who really cares.

The saga continues and I really will be rude to someone if HMRC do not graciously accept that they have made an error and correct this by promptly cancelling the incorrect late filing penalty.

The footnote to this is that none of this is the fault of my client or myself. It is entirely down to the failure of the HMRC Digital Services and poorly trained staff. Perhaps less emphasis on technology and more on investment in well trained and efficient staff is the correct way to go, together with more respect for the massive support that Agents and others give to HMRC in keeping the system working at all.

Thanks (15)
Replying to Tornado:
By turchyna582
20th Jan 2021 10:08

I absolutely support the comments in your closing paragraph.
Technology has totally usurped not only 'personal and professionally acquired' valuable underlying knowledge and training on the principles of the various components of the tax system; but it has led to users of technology accepting the outcomes of their sometimes 'erroneous' data input - and then claiming that the output is absolute correct!
From a training perspective, I sadly miss 'invariably older generation' support staff who totally understand the underlying principles in operating PAYE, can do a manual ETB, and have excellent mental arithmetic ability, and do not rely on 'Google' to provide answers to clients' even basic questions.

Thanks (4)
Replying to Tornado:
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By djtax
22nd Jan 2021 10:51

Perhaps as a profession we should all be far more 'aggressive' and routinely send HMRC written formal complaints for this sort of poor service (and seek compensation for the extra work, if we can face the HMRC ridiculously over convoluted process to do so)- they would be inundated...

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
19th Jan 2021 18:58

I have some problems that will easily be sorted out via a phone call with HMRC but I've told my clients that I'm not ringing for any reason whatsoever until after 31 Jan.

For example I've discovered that a client has two PAYE ref nos and I've been (correctly) submitting to one reference for some months but HMRC say I've not submitted anything and has sent the usual letters to client.

A quick phone call will cancel one reference but I'm not going to... I have other things to do with my time at the moment than spend hours on the phone trying to get through.

So I'm not.

They can all wait until 2nd Feb.

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Replying to Jennifer Adams:
blue sheep
By NH
20th Jan 2021 08:31

Anything like this we are now sending letters, the issue with that is that when the letter gets lost you still have to make the call but at least you can say you did inform them which will help with penalties.

In fact we have pretty much given up trying to talk to HMRC, its all such a mess

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Replying to NH:
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By 4b4
20th Jan 2021 11:18

NH wrote:

Anything like this we are now sending letters, the issue with that is that when the letter gets lost you still have to make the call but at least you can say you did inform them which will help with penalties.

In fact we have pretty much given up trying to talk to HMRC, its all such a mess

I have started to send all correspondence 'signed for' to HMRC where possible - yes it is an additional cost, but I'm sick and fed up of standard post being (conveniently) 'lost'. Cynical me, but it's amazing how HMRC still can't use email for 'security' purposes - nothing to do with the fact that it's completely 'trackable' of course!

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By CazzyT
20th Jan 2021 08:34

So many frustrating stories that could be told ... I fondly remember the days when you could call your local office and speak to someone who knew about tax.
Whilst I appreciate the world moves on, the service being provided is completely inadequate. Not only for agents, but any taxpayer who calls should expect to speak to someone with a basic grasp of tax or the wherewithal to refer you on to someone who does.
Meanwhile agents are being cut out of more and more processes, because "customers" can do it themselves - resulting in us having to pick up the pieces later.
Is it February yet?

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Replying to CazzyT:
Tornado
By Tornado
20th Jan 2021 08:55

"So many frustrating stories that could be told ... I fondly remember the days when you could call your local office and speak to someone who knew about tax"

Not only were they knowledgeable about tax, there were able to correct errors immediately on their screens and make other low level decisions. They were also friendly, understanding and would ensure that a letter of apology or explanation would go to a client if HMRC (Inland Revenue) had made a mistake.

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Replying to CazzyT:
By SteveHa
20th Jan 2021 09:06

I remember those days, too, but from the HMRC side. I left around the time that call centres were starting.

Back then we were on first name terms with most of the local accountancy firms, and those taxpayers that needed help more often than most tended to become first name terms clients, too.

We all worked on our own taxpayers (not customers), thus retaining consistency, and more often than not for ongoing matters we didn't need to refer to notes, we knew what was happening.

Then came the restructuring, and it all went [***] up.

Thanks (8)
Replying to SteveHa:
blue sheep
By NH
20th Jan 2021 09:21

Yes, we knew the inspectors and they knew us, often a quick call from the local HMRC bod would clarify an issue, those days are gone for good and whilst technology has brought many benefits over the last 20 years I have seen HMRC get worse and worse in so many different ways its hard to know where to begin.

I know it is easy to bash them, but seriously when you see how quickly they can pull together systems for CJRS, SEISS etc when the motivation is there and you compare that to the shambles in the day to day operation at the moment it is baffling

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Replying to NH:
By turchyna582
20th Jan 2021 17:45

Interesting comparison with CJRS 'projects' etc.
Might it be that routine matters are still left in the hands of the regular staff, and 'projects' which are politically highly sensitive and deemed important, have the expertise 'brought in'.
External expertise has to 'deliver', to retain goodwill and credibility! Maybe too many of the regular staff are simply too content, in the knowledge that HMRC 'customers' can complain about standards of service until the 'cows come home'; but none of the HMRC staff will ever be accountable for their performance, and that performance has nothing to do with their employment retention.

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Replying to SteveHa:
Tornado
By Tornado
20th Jan 2021 10:23

SteveHA - Can I take this opportunity to thank you for your help in the past.

We did have good working arrangements with local Tax Offices then, even being able to ask for advice from and discuss matters with District Inspectors who invariably knew more about tax matters than most of us. We knew at the time that this was a system that worked well and appreciated even then the help that people like you gave to us, but what a stark and sad contrast to the HMRC of today.

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By Mr Hankey
20th Jan 2021 09:15

I agree, I have found some advisors to be very helpful over the phone, but some are useless.

A couple of weeks ago I phoned to make changes to a PAYE code. Usually this involves a couple of questions, clicking of the mouse, tapping on the keyboard, a minute or two of "doing it" and then it's done.

This "advisor" just kept saying "yes, that's now done" immediately after everything I asked, there was no time taken/ clicking/ typing/ anything. It was quite clear he wasn't doing a thing I had asked. (Low and behold when I checked in the future, nothing had been actioned at all and I needed to phone back again to get it done).

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By OrmeGoat
20th Jan 2021 09:53

HMRC tell us "Like other service organisations, we have been impacted by the pandemic".

Well, guess what? So has the accountancy profession but you have refused to help us with the January 31 deadline, other than some vague advice about appeals and an extension to the time limit for appeals.

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By Self-Employed and Happy
20th Jan 2021 09:55

It has been utterly horrendous since the start of the pandemic to be honest (not the agents fault).

I normally use the chat option nowadays so that I can print / save it, that has become unusable.

You have to keep the screen open, wait until "Speak to an advisor" pops up, click that immediately and then type Name / Message as quick as possible before pressing send.

I've resorted to the name and message being one letter, even getting to this stage after pressing send chat it disconnected and said "User Busy" sending me back to the first screen.

It took me best part of 2 days to get through this week, on the phone nowadays many of the agents can't actually speak to you about certain things or can't put you on hold to speak to a manager so other than the most basic things it's pretty much useless.

HMRC need huge investment in just the lower end advisor roles, what's the point in rolling out MTD etc if the investment in advisors is lacking.

We won't be able to really judge until we are "back to normal" but I was finding even last January that the service I was getting as an agent from HMRC was at the lowest point it had ever been.

Thanks (5)
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By Johnny
20th Jan 2021 09:57

Sadly lockdown has legitimised terrible customer service with H.M.R.C., I get the impression that before they deign to answer they pop the kettle on, put a couple of slices in the toaster, check today's racing results and then when bored stiff pick up the phone some half hour later, try and put that down on a fee note to a client.

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By Annette_Watson
20th Jan 2021 10:00

I rang the agent line yesterday as I have a lovely client who is very ill in hospital with COVID and is worrying about making their 31st January tax payment (we filed the return months ago and they always pay and file on time). The first thing the advisor said was 'can't they make a payment over the phone with a debit card'!!! Unbelievable. A bit off topic but HMRC seem to have no system in place for this eventuality. It is up to the tax payer to ring HMRC to arrange a payment plan, but what if they are too ill to make that call?

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By graydjames
20th Jan 2021 10:00

This very morning dead on 8am rang Agents' helpline. Unsurprisingly perhaps I got straight through. Issue was self-employment cessation but no restriction of class 2 NI. First response after all the usual preamble, oh I will have to put you through to NI - despite my protests that that should not be necessary. At NI after perhaps 10 minutes to look at the record "the system is so slow today" (it's always slow), was told all dates were correct and "I don't know why it has not calculated correct NI, you'll have to speak to SA again I'll put you through". "Oh sorry no one is answering suggest you ring again". Rang Agents' line again waited 15 minutes for answer and after a very long wait ("I'll put you on hold whilst I check this") she came back and said I will have to put you through to another department - whereupon I found myself back at National Insurance.

There I was told - all is well on the return and we cannot solve this, you'll have to speak to self-assessment here's the number 0300 2003310 - which is, of course, the all-comers number. At this point it was exactly one minute and 15 seconds after 9 o-clock so this had taken over one hour to not have the issue resolved. The amount was £69. It would have been cheaper to pay the extra cost and be done with it!!

Shockingly bad service.

Thanks (4)
Replying to graydjames:
By kenny achampong
20th Jan 2021 10:46

This Class 2 issue is totally ridiculous. Its £3 per week. How hard can it be to calculate that !? And it's ALWAYS wrong if its not a whole year. How many years have they had to just mend it ? If they can't get the simplest tax around to work, what is the likelihood of them getting MTD up and running ?

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Replying to kenny achampong:
blue sheep
By NH
20th Jan 2021 10:56

But that is the baffling part isn't it, the big systems, cjrs, seiss, mtd for vat etc get setup and work whereas the day to day simpler things fall over. That suggests to me that the newer things are on newer IT systems and the things that don't work are on the old non joined up legacy systems

Thanks (1)
7om
By Tom 7000
20th Jan 2021 10:20

The managing director of each practice should be given a tax inspectors email. He should be given 12 questions a year he can send them and they will give a succinct and to the point reply in less than 3 hours and the advice should be binding on that one item but not as policy for the whole of HMRC to make it fair on both sides.

That would remove a lot of heartache and the questions would be proper ones not admin nonesense. For each question you dont use each year you get house point. When you have 100 house points you get a CBE

Thanks (1)
Replying to Tom 7000:
Tornado
By Tornado
20th Jan 2021 10:31

I seem to remember being contacted a few years ago by someone from HMRC who was supposed to be my contact with them if I had any problems. This seemed a good idea but it was predictable that this public relations exercise was never going to last and despite trying to contact this person a little while later, he was unobtainable and I guess the project was quietly shelved never to be seen again.

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Replying to Tom 7000:
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By Self-Employed and Happy
20th Jan 2021 10:48

I actually remember 2 years ago have a quite complex R+D query, I emailed them my question / methodology to try and be cheeky to inquire a to whether this was acceptable.

Instead of an email pointing me back to the very vague bit of text on the R+D pages of HMRC concerning the matter, I got an email back saying "this is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, thank you for contacting us"

I was numb with shock for days, I couldn't believe it.

What you suggest is good however they would have to set up a system just for it with "approved email addresses etc"

However it wouldn't work, what if the tax inspector did not apply the rule consistently with someone sitting next to them, you'd just end up in court as the rules aren't being applied correctly.

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By Homeworker
20th Jan 2021 10:26

"Also don’t be shy about asking on our very own Any Answers, as someone else may well have come across the same issue."
I would like to support this recommendation but unfortunately it does depend on the willingness of other subscribers to reply. I have twice in the past posted questions when all other routes to find answers had failed but had no replies.

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Replying to Homeworker:
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By graydjames
20th Jan 2021 13:01

This is somewhat "off-piste" to the original thread, but, on balance, I would certainly support the recommendation. I have only posted two questions, one of them very recently, and it was pretty obscure too, but both got responses and both gave me a resolution of the issue I had. Small sample, but I often read other questions too, when researching a point, and they usually seem to get answers - often really helpful answers.

I think that it is not a lack of replies that is the problem, it is that replies frequently fail to address the question being raised. Instead they answer a completely different question or, rather than respond to the query, they will raise doubts about its premise or, worse, they are impolite or critical of the questioner. I ended my last query with "Polite responses welcomed", or words to that effect, having become nervous of how some people think it is acceptable to respond.

Thanks (1)
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By Mr J Andrews
20th Jan 2021 10:28

Such shocking stories and experiences. The sad part is that a once respected Government department, falling deeper and deeper into a third rate service, won't admit to its failures.
Rather than ''Carry On Harrah '' , HMRC really needs a thorough cleansing of its dead wood , proper staff training with commensurate rewards for efficient service and , first and foremost, a competent leader with the ability to equally understand and fulfil the Department's obligations and expectations and its duty to customers .
Clearly the salary thrown at the present incumbent is money not well spent.

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By raycad
20th Jan 2021 10:35

"HMRC confirmed to AccountingWEB that it has removed preferential treatment of the Agent dedicated line as part of its reprioritisation exercise to help it manage the staff available to answer phones during the pandemic."

Did I miss the memo about this?? No wonder I haven't had a call answered in under 40 minutes this past week and a half, two of which I gave up on, and all re a single client. As others have said, you can't in all conscience bill this time to the client but our time is money and we've all got more productive things to be doing in our lives, haven't we?

Also, to echo other's comments, even when I did finally get through yesterday, needless to say the adviser wasn't able to help and I have been promised a call back by a "technician". (That will hopefully be the "older gentleman"!) Where will we be when all the time-served staff have retired?

Finally, and slightly off-topic, given how long we are on hold, can HMRC not give us a different tune to that dreadful one we have to endure? In fact it's not even a tune, is it? I'd rather put up with Greensleeves on a Xylophone! I'm even willing to pay for it (okay, I mean crowd-fund it)!

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Replying to raycad:
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By Jimess
20th Jan 2021 11:20

Greensleeves on a Xylophone - that brightened my day thinking of Patrick Moore nippily playing his xylophone:)

Or how about ELO's Telephone Line "Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
I'm living in twilight
Okay, so no one's answering
Well, can't you just let it ring a little longer, longer, longer
Oh,…"

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Replying to Jimess:
Tornado
By Tornado
20th Jan 2021 11:28

I remember calling an insurance company recently who gave me the choice of which type of music I would like to hear whilst I was waiting. A nice touch in difficult times but probably an alien concept to HMRC.

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Replying to Jimess:
By Duggimon
20th Jan 2021 12:04

You don't want music you like to show up on there, it's a form of cognitive behavioural therapy that will sicken you against all that you love by associating it with the miasmic labyrinth of HMRC's phone system.

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Replying to Duggimon:
Tornado
By Tornado
20th Jan 2021 12:31

Duggimon wrote:

You don't want music you like to show up on there, it's a form of cognitive behavioural therapy that will sicken you against all that you love by associating it with the miasmic labyrinth of HMRC's phone system.

I get your point, and perhaps it is just as well that HMRC have missed this trick.

I have always assumed that the HMRC 'music' has been scientifically chosen to get those waiting into a calm and receptive mood, but this clearly does not work. At least the 'music' is so obscure that it is not going to be listened to in leisure moments and the chances of getting uptight at any other time than phoning HMRC is unlikely.

This does still indicate the HMRC have missed a trick as they have stuck to the same annoying music for at least the last 10 years and there is a high probability that the person waiting to be answered will not be as calm and pleasant as anticipated.

Aversion therapy is perhaps a better description, designed to dissuade us from phoning the helpline in the first place and stop asking those very annoying questions.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By raycad
20th Jan 2021 13:14

Just for the record, when I suggested Greensleeves on a Xylophone, I was NOT being serious!! Just saying!

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Replying to Jimess:
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By unclejoe
20th Jan 2021 12:16

Surely the HMRC hold music should be "Taxman" by The Beatles!!!

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Replying to unclejoe:
Tornado
By Tornado
20th Jan 2021 12:34

Sunny Afternoon by the Kinks -

'The tax man's taken all my dough'

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Replying to Tornado:
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
21st Jan 2021 12:32

Thanks for your HMRC hold music suggestions. Coincidentally, Taxman already holds a prime position on our Songs for Self Assessment Season playlist on Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6O7l9oIJ7c1WQeqULtPHin

The missing tax dough is worth consideration, Tornado, but would you say "lazing on a sunny afternoon" captures is in tune with the spirit of busy season? Though maybe it is appropriate for one of those clever clogs accountants who are telling us they had all their tax returns wrapped up by Christmas.

Sorry to go off on a tangent, but I couldn't resist. Our feeling on AccountingWEB is that everyone might appreciate a bit of light relief at a time like this.

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Replying to John Stokdyk:
Tornado
By Tornado
21st Jan 2021 13:17

I think "Sunny Afternoon" was meant to be a bit ironic at the time but did reflect the situation that many found themselves in.

I can remember early in the 70's, something about one of our clients who lived in a historic house, owned several other big houses which were let out as prestige flats and also owned two small Castles. He took us out to lunch and I noticed that the road tax had expired on his vintage Rolls Royce. His answer to this was that he did not have enough cash to pay for it and a quick look at his records backed this up. The lunch was economical as well!

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By stephen.hallberg
20th Jan 2021 10:36

Agents' helpline is a joke- I spent 30 minutes in a queue to then be told the lady would transfer me and promptly got cut off ! Another 30 minutes listening to pipe music- only to be passed on to the Class 2 section who could not deal with my query which was in fact to correct an HMRC error, total hours ''lost'' 1.75 at a time we can ill afford. My sympathy goes to all my colleagues battling everything being thrown at us.

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By kenny achampong
20th Jan 2021 10:39

Last time I tried, I was on hold for 45 minutes, and then she said “can I please have your clients reference” I had started working on a different file so opened the other file and said “hold on a sec…..” and she immediately said “you need to have the details directly in front of you” and hung up!

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By grannysmith
20th Jan 2021 10:51

The average wait is 8 minutes 22 seconds. I must be really unluckly.

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By Duggimon
20th Jan 2021 10:54

Gentle reminder that when you call HMRC it is always recorded (they say it may be recorded, but it is always recorded). Note the date and time of the call and the name of the operator you were speaking to. Should you require it, you can make a Subject Access Request for the call recording. HMRC are required to comply within 40 days.

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By SteveHa
20th Jan 2021 11:09

And webchat. Humph. Just got of an hour long webchat for a simple matter. My opening message was, "I'd like to request notices to file be withdrawn under TMA 1970 S8B"

And the first reply from HMRC was, "I have seen your initial message, Can you tell me what "TMA 1970 S8B" means."

Speaks volumes all by itself.

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By Donald MacKenzie
20th Jan 2021 11:14

I am still waiting for a response to a letter sent in May 2020!
I had asked for CIS deductions suffered to be transferred from PAYE credit to my client's Corporation Tax bill. The HMRC response was to say they did not recognise the amount I asked to be transferred - without telling me what amount they DID recognise or giving any kind of breakdown. That meant another round of letters to establish what they were willing to pass across and now the transfer (of around £11k) has STILL not been done.
Calling HMRC is useless at worst, frustrating and slow at best. I have my office in my home. During lockdown a student son, now at home, will go and make me a cup of tea if he passes my office and hears the HMRC noise through my speakerphone.

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Replying to Donald MacKenzie:
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By Self-Employed and Happy
20th Jan 2021 11:41

Imagine this...

Your problem above but with the added complication of the previous accountant admitting the CIS had "got out of hand and wasn't right, a relief to hand over".

You are best persevering with this using the Chat Function, had mine all sorted in approximately 2 months, however did have to chase up the credit because although it was showing as "refunded" on the PAYE Account it took an absolute age for the VAT Dept to recognise even the existence of the Credit, I basically had to act as a go between for them to speak to each other.

That is one aspect of HMRC that has always been shocking, Inter Department Communication.

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Replying to Donald MacKenzie:
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By 4b4
20th Jan 2021 12:00

Donald MacKenzie wrote:

I am still waiting for a response to a letter sent in May 2020!

May 2020 - hahahaha
I had a VAT enquiry which took 4 VAT periods to conclude (completely in the client's favour) resulting in repayments for those 4 periods - HMC&E repaid the amounts owing for the la
st three periods, but not the first. Agreement was confirmed by C&E representative on 21/1/2020, and, despite 5 further letters and umpteen phone calls, client is still waiting for his £8k+ repayment from the ¼ ended 31/1/2019!
It really is abysmal

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By mbee1
20th Jan 2021 11:24

I joined the then Inland Revenue in the late 1970's working my way up from Tax Officer to Inspector before I jumped ship. The training then was excellent, sometimes spending days at a time at various training centres around the country. Customer service was excellent and, when you started a particular piece of work you saw it through from beginning to end.

I still speak to ex colleagues I used to work with who are still there and no one has a good word to say about it. Nothing works, moral is rock bottom and there are more staff working on statistics than there are tax work. The saving grace for them, being a similar age to me, is that they can still retire at 60 if they can afford it whereas most staff now have to work longer.

They continually seem to want to cut agents out of the system. Even trying to get a simple job like a tax code changed takes a phenominal amount of time and, if the new system of agents being able to change tax codes ever comes in, it will be a bonus for us because at least we know what we're doing.

It's also so frustrating that the person you end up speaking to can't finish the task. "You'll need to ring this number, or, I'll need to send a message to such and such a department and you'll get a callback within 5 working days". Frankly it's just not good enough and not fit for purpose.

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By North East Accountant
20th Jan 2021 12:47

HMRC have still not twigged that without the agents the tax system would collapse.

It's about time that they figured that out and actually supported agents properly.

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