Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.
Mobile phone | AccountingWEB | HMRC u-turns on permanent helpline cuts
istock_mobilephone_pinkypills

HMRC makes U-turn on permanent helpline cuts

by

HMRC has performed a remarkable u-turn on plans to make permanent cuts to its helplines, less than 24 hours after proposals were unveiled.

20th Mar 2024
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

HMRC has peformed a u-turn on controversial plans to make permanent cuts to its helplines, less than 24 hours after proposals were unveiled and strongly criticised.

Following feedback from concerned stakeholders, the changes to the Self-Assessment, VAT and PAYE helplines that were announced will be halted while HMRC engages with stakeholders about how to ensure all taxpayers’ needs are met as the department shifts more people to online self-service in the longer term.

The original announcement drew widespread criticism from readers and industry bodies, with Caroline Miskin, senior technical manager, digital taxation at ICAEW, calling the permanent move to answer VAT helpline calls on five business days a month “disappointing” and CIOT president Gary Ashford saying the organisation was “deeply dismayed”.

HMRC chief executive Jim Harra has now said that while “making best use of online services allows HMRC to help more taxpayers and get the most out of every pound of taxpayers’ money by boosting productivity”, the pace of this change “needs to match the public appetite for managing their tax affairs online”.

“We’ve listened to the feedback and we’re halting the helpline changes as we recognise more needs to be done to ensure all taxpayers’ needs are met, whilst also encouraging them to transition to online services.”

"Common sense has prevailed"

A statement on behalf of the Treasury Committee noted it was “extremely pleased to see that common sense has prevailed”.

“We welcome the decision to reverse yesterday’s ill-advised announcement. While we do not oppose expansion of digital services for those who want to use them, we remain entirely unconvinced that HMRC is adequately prepared to impose such a significant change in how it serves taxpayers.

“Planned changes to the operation of HMRC's phonelines have been mismanaged from the beginning. Questions still remain over the extent to which the department are prioritising its own needs over those of law-abiding and vulnerable taxpayers.”

Miskin and Ashford have also welcomed the move.

“This surprising u-turn is good news for taxpayers, who need HMRC customer service to be responsive to their queries,” said Miskin. “If taxpayers can’t speak to a human when they need to, there is a real risk that they give up on trying to do the right thing and that errors and non-compliance increase.

Ashford added: “This pause is a good opportunity for HMRC to press a reset button on their attempts to force people into digital services by withdrawing phone help, rather than taking people with them by making the online option the attractive choice.”

It is the second such u-turn within a matter of weeks, following the government’s decision to reverse new guidance that classed double-cab pickups as cars rather than vans.

Tags:

Replies (115)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By TB93
20th Mar 2024 11:39

These guys are absolute jokers.

First the double-cab pickups, now this. What's next, ITSA? Please.

Thanks (2)
Replying to TB93:
avatar
By Beancounter55
20th Mar 2024 11:45

ENSA

Thanks (2)
avatar
By PAULLEWISFCCA
20th Mar 2024 11:39

in the last days of empire corruption and incompetence knows no bounds

Thanks (3)
avatar
By PAULLEWISFCCA
20th Mar 2024 11:40

Do they drink Brawndo at HMRC

Thanks (1)
avatar
By SXGuy
20th Mar 2024 11:42

At this point any new changes to the tax system should be met with a pinch of salt for at least 7 days incase of a u turn as it seems to be their remit now

Thanks (1)
avatar
By JackH
20th Mar 2024 11:42

Harr-umph!

The two rules of Digitisation are:

1 Don't run before you can walk; and
2 Don't do something just because you can

Ye ken the noo, Jimmy. Keep the heid, Laddie, keep the bluddie heid!

Thanks (3)
Profile
By indomitable
20th Mar 2024 11:45

Absolute clowns!

And how much has all this nonsense cost the taxpayer in meetings, waste of time etc. etc.? Sack the lot of them!

Thanks (3)
avatar
By codling
20th Mar 2024 11:46

See the press release just issued. Usual rubbish in it. No mention that they were forced to abandon this stupid idea but that they have listened to stakeholders. I know where the stakeholders stake should be placed!

Thanks (6)
avatar
By Ammie
20th Mar 2024 11:47

There's a exceptional comedy series in this. Let's get Rowan Atkinson and John Cleese on the case and pair them up as leading characters, not sure who will be Jim Harra.

I'm laughing already.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Ammie:
By Nick Graves
20th Mar 2024 11:50

Oh, that's got to be Chris Barrie!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Ammie:
avatar
By AdamJones82
20th Mar 2024 11:52

MTD sounds like a cunning plan from Baldrick

Thanks (1)
Replying to AdamJones82:
avatar
By Whacker
20th Mar 2024 12:26

Making Tax Difficult!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Ammie:
DougScott
By Dougscott
20th Mar 2024 12:05

I think Jim Harra could be played by Heinrich Himmler. They already look like each other and I'm sure Heinrich would get into the role of Chief of HMRC very quickly. Oh I forgot, Heinrich has already met a sticky end so we can't hire him....

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Jimess
20th Mar 2024 11:48

"Ill advised" is an understatement it was a betrayal of the taxpaying public that HMRC are there to serve. The public that rely on HMRC for help and advice when they have questions about their tax matters.

Thanks (2)
avatar
By pauld
20th Mar 2024 11:49

I think the original statement yesterday was an April Fools but Dim Jim got his days mixed up.

Thanks (2)
avatar
By youngloch
20th Mar 2024 11:49

What is going on behind the scenes - first it was crew cab vans and now this?!

Maybe HMRC should start listening to us if they want some useful ideas!

We can start with:

If you think it's bad now just wait for two years time!

Give authorised agents access to allocate payments to the correct periods for CT and PAYE in particular

Give us access to our client's personal tax accounts as a default once authorised

Create an online folder which will store all letters sent by HMRC to clients/agents for those occasions when letters aren't received or are delayed causing us to then have to contact the HMRC helpline and perhaps wait 9 months for a one line reply which is probably completely irrelevant to the original question?

I'm certain that the main reason we call the Self Assessment helpline is because of HMRC errors....... or, currently, spending hours putting together responses to send HMRC to prove that we're not a firm of scam accountants applying for a refund for 2 CIS clients whom we have represented for years with a bundle of bank statements, vouchers etc...... my frustrated question is "why!?!"

Thanks (11)
avatar
By DonDan
20th Mar 2024 11:50

I do have a feeling this may be just a temporary reprieve. There's an election coming so it wouldn't surprise me to have this rolled out again next year.

Thanks (2)
avatar
By AdamJones82
20th Mar 2024 11:51

All we need now is a u turn on quarterly submissions

Thanks (9)
Tornado
By Tornado
20th Mar 2024 11:57

It is truly unbelievable that supposedly intelligent people are in charge of running HMRC.

Even an idiot could have worked out that a helpline needs to be available virtually all of the time, and anyone who has tried to use the so called HMRC online help services knows that they simply do not work.

The answer is to provide real people with proper training at the end of a phone line, available every day with the resources to answer calls and provide competent answers to questions asked.

In particular, HMRC should already be working on the provision of special helplines for MTD enquiries to handle the explosion of enquiries by people who have no idea how to use 'Digital Software' and often just need to be told how to turn the computer on to get going.

Thanks (5)
avatar
By OrmeGoat
20th Mar 2024 11:59

A**e and elbow spring to mind. And how much are these jerks paid to make decisions like the original one?

Thanks (2)
VAT
By Jason Croke
20th Mar 2024 12:05

Not buying this "we listened to feedback" nonsense.

HMRC published a document this morning stating how they carefully performed risk impact assessments to ensure they did not discriminate against the disabled and other minorities, HMRC must have been so proud that they had done all their due diligence before closing the helplines.

Turns out, they more likely made the decision on Monday to close the lines for no reason other than taxpayers can like it or lump it, do their usual of making the announcement a week before the new rules kick in giving nobody anytime to adjust or complain and then sit back and watch further chaos as the "new strategy" crumbles into dust on day 1.

Thanks (5)
avatar
By kjevans
20th Mar 2024 12:05

Unfortunately, it doesn't mean that anyone will actually answer the phone.

Thanks (6)
avatar
By jon watkin
20th Mar 2024 12:05

I was expecting HMRC's response to be

"We are committed to (insert worthy but unachievable objective that customers/service user/taxpayers will like)
and that's why we are investing (insert £m of funds diverted from elsewhere which in reality will probably will not be spent)
to improve the long term outcomes for our customers/service users/taxpayers."

And when it does go wrong
"We shall set up an enquiry into what happened. It would be inappropriate to comment on any issues raised until that enquiry has concluded and we are able to see if any lessons can be learned for future decisions."

Either I am getting cynical in my later years or these last few years in fiscal and political affairs seem to have been a series of tick-box make it up as you go along policy making followed by failure, reversal, rinse taxpayers (well those that cannot afford or know about tax planning) and repeat.

Thanks (2)
avatar
By coleprice
20th Mar 2024 12:15

Following our post yesterday that we will be moving all interaction with HMRC online with effect from 8th April, we've listened to the feedback and we’re halting the online changes as we recognise more needs to be done to ensure all HMRC's needs are met, whilst also encouraging them to transition to online services in the fullness of time.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By coleprice
20th Mar 2024 12:15

Following our post yesterday that we will be moving all interaction with HMRC online with effect from 8th April, we've listened to the feedback and we’re halting the online changes as we recognise more needs to be done to ensure all HMRC's needs are met, whilst also encouraging them to transition to online services in the fullness of time.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By cbp99
20th Mar 2024 12:18

HMRC Consultation Procedure:
Step 1 - announce policy change
Step 2 - await response
Step 3 - if response exceptional and universally negative, reverse Step 1; otherwise, carry on.
Updated J Harra, 2024

Thanks (3)
avatar
By Red1960
20th Mar 2024 12:19

This is a result of negative coverage in the national press and the resultant pressure from the public.

Isn't it time the prof bodies actually made sure that MTD was put on the national agenda to ensure that this entire project is abandoned/abolished without further unnecessary expenditure?

I have to say that the national press, our MPs and our political system have to carry the responsibility for this... but enought is enough and MTD clearly has to go.

HMRC obviously have an agenda whereby MTD is introduced by stealth and kept off the public agenda. The professional bodies have colluded with this not only against the profession's interest but also against the public interest.

That is little short of disgraceful.

Thanks (8)
Replying to Red1960:
VAT
By Jason Croke
20th Mar 2024 12:50

Red1960 wrote:

This is a result of negative coverage in the national press and the resultant pressure from the public.

Isn't it time the prof bodies actually made sure that MTD was put on the national agenda to ensure that this entire project is abandoned/abolished without further unnecessary expenditure?

I have to say that the national press, our MPs and our political system have to carry the responsibility for this... but enought is enough and MTD clearly has to go.

HMRC obviously have an agenda whereby MTD is introduced by stealth and kept off the public agenda. The professional bodies have colluded with this not only against the profession's interest but also against the public interest.

That is little short of disgraceful.


The professional bodies are a disgrace, not representing their members at all, just taking the fees and ticking the compliance boxes.

Not just with fighting HMRC, but also with the more spurious tax agents and their dodgy tax scams, the professional bodies seem happy not to intervene or to promote good agents over bad ones.

Thanks (6)
Replying to Red1960:
avatar
By twohaporth
20th Mar 2024 16:02

This is spot on. The Professional Bodies need to stand up for their members instead of dreaming up more standards and requirements to waste their members' time.

Come on PBs we pay you enough money get us something worthwhile in exchange for our money. Beat HMRC into submission so that they actually do their jobs instead of playing silly computer games with taxpayers' money.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By Tom+Cross
20th Mar 2024 12:24

I'd (seriously) suggest a complete clearout of the HMRC hierarchy. Completely unfit for purpose. Much like the majority of Government agencies.
A complete and utter shambles, on a grand scale.
Only this year, we've had, immediate turnarounds on; king cab pick-ups and overnight, this shambles.
This isn't listening to public opinion, this is a s**t storm.

Thanks (4)
Replying to Tom+Cross:
avatar
By djtax
20th Mar 2024 15:44

It would be a start if HMRC Exec Board members actually had some background in tax - none of the current lot do, apart from JH himself who is a career long tax inspector.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tom+Cross:
avatar
By Red1960
20th Mar 2024 17:21

Ostensibly it's the elected government who is responsible for what and how the Civil Service goes about its business of implementing statute and ensuring it is complied with.

I'm not going to be partisan about this because HM Opposition are just as much of a corrupt bunch of incompetents shepherded through the motions by unelected lobbyists and countless NGOs who only represent their own personal interests as the current incumbents.

Oiling the wheels of government is all too often only achieved through the corrosive application of corrupt practice while the public interest is always the loser.

You know there are a lot of people who complain a great deal, rather pointlessly so, because they refuse to see the truth when it's staring them in the face. They exist in a permanent state of denial: Angry of Tunbridge Wells springs to mind along with the herds of Colonel Blimps of this world.

Ultimately, they are just as guilty of perpetuating this farce as anyone else in fact probably more than most.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By johnthegood
20th Mar 2024 12:32

Dear Jim,

Your P45 will be sent to you in the post, if you do not receive it please first allow at least 18 months for it to arrive, we need to tell you that chasing us for it will create further delays, did you also know that you can do everything online anyway.

If you have properly authorised an agent to handle your affairs please also be aware that it is more then likely they will never be sent any useful information when we mistakenly amend your Self Assessment return, this will cause them an incredible amount of time and stress, as well as costing you more in fees, which is just the way we like it.

Finally we take this opportunity to thank you for not yet successfully implementing the Making [***] look Delicious project, we view this as a great success and your ability to push on through, carrying on regardless and denying all the facts that everyone else can see will be our guiding principle as we continue to insist that [***] does indeed look delicious.

Yours Faithfully

The Robot that you have been replaced with.

Thanks (12)
Replying to johnthegood:
avatar
By johnthegood
20th Mar 2024 12:34

[quote=johnthegood]

Dear Jim,

[***] does indeed look delicious.

For clarity this word rhymes with Curd......

Thanks (0)
VAT
By Jason Croke
20th Mar 2024 12:33

Hello my name is HMRC Elbow.

Hi, I'm HMRC Ar*e, I don't think we've met before.

Thanks (2)
By trecar
20th Mar 2024 12:34

It seems to me that the new management technique of HMRC is to announce a policy, wait to see what sort of a response it gets then decide which way to jump. Very much like the leaks from the government are used as means of deciding whether to run with an idea. And then they announce they have listened to their stakeholders and are responding accordingly.

I have news for both the government and HMRC, good management carries out consultation first to understand the implications of any proposals. It used to happen but there seem to be a new management philosophy in government now. We used to call it the screw-up theory. Screw-up and then run for the hills, whilst blaming somebody else.

Thanks (1)
By Charlie Carne
20th Mar 2024 12:55

Just a suggestion to Jim Harra, and I realise that it's controversial, but he might like to think about seeking "feedback from concerned stakeholders" before, rather than after, introducing major changes in future.

My further suggestions:
(1) call us what we are (taxpayers) rather than pretending that we are "customers" (albeit unique to that epithet in that we have no choice over where to direct our custom) as that would positively impact their staff interaction with us
(2) expand the generally excellent ADL to cover CT, VAT and PAYE, in addition to IT, as that would save much time
(3) stop delaying the rollout of a secure messaging system to both taxpayers and agents within the HMRC portal, reducing lengthy postal delays
(4) offer an interactive text 'chat' service over the web so that staff or AI can send web links directly to the taxpayer in the app for more detailed information, reducing the time spent by HMRC staff on telephone calls
(5) make all their services operate in real-time so that there aren't weeks-long delays between one team (or the taxpayer or their agent) updating the database and those changes being visible to everyone who accesses that taxpayer's record.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By Cathy54
20th Mar 2024 13:09

Unbelievable! What a U turn! I am almost speechless, Are HMRC going to stop working from their bedrooms and get back to the Office as well? lol!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By James Aughterson
20th Mar 2024 13:13

Good old Aweb. Kill the messenger.

It's the Conservative government that have massively slashed HMRC's budget and it's the outside consultants (Hi, Big 4!) that have pushed the "digitalise everything whilst paying us massive fees" agenda.

The U-turns occur when the political heat starts to singe MPs inboxes ...

But, hey, let's kill some civil servants.

Thanks (1)
Replying to James Aughterson:
avatar
By johnjenkins
20th Mar 2024 13:30

Yet In his budget he announced (albeit sneaky) he would make sure HMRC had all the money they needed.

Thanks (0)
Replying to johnjenkins:
avatar
By James Aughterson
20th Mar 2024 17:33

They have a deserved reputation for telling lies ...

Thanks (0)
Replying to James Aughterson:
VAT
By Jason Croke
20th Mar 2024 14:11

James Aughterson wrote:

Good old Aweb. Kill the messenger.

It's the Conservative government that have massively slashed HMRC's budget and it's the outside consultants (Hi, Big 4!) that have pushed the "digitalise everything whilst paying us massive fees" agenda.

The U-turns occur when the political heat starts to singe MPs inboxes ...

But, hey, let's kill some civil servants.


Disagree to a degree.

Agree that budgets have been slashed and a political desire to shift HMRC to an online only beast, requiring fewer staff, etc. Nothing wrong with this aspirational and future proofing objective.

Its the implementation that is the issue, you don't just cut thousands of (experienced) staff, then hastily replace them with school leavers with less experience and at same time, dribble out a few ill thought out online forms that still require human intervention once received by HMRC meaning any digital gain is lost with manual processing.

Get the IT right first, test it, have it cover 80% of taxpayer queries and then make the cuts, not the other way around. What we have now is HMRC staff who don't know what they are doing, not answering emails, not opening post, taking months to reply toi the simplest of queries and then HMRC wonder why their helplines are being flooded with calls...Get the basics right and you dont need to worry about plugging gaps elsewhere.

Thanks (3)
Replying to Jason Croke:
avatar
By moneymanager
20th Mar 2024 16:23

'the u turn occurs', well let's do that with rejecting CBDCs, acting as hotelier to the world, rejecting the WHO pandemic non treaty ammendments, the WHOLE UN/oil industry inspired 'net zero' nonsense, this could be just the beginning ofva big push, I hope so.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Jason Croke:
avatar
By James Aughterson
20th Mar 2024 17:36

You think they were given the opportunity to make the "savings" in that organised a fashion?

I'm no fan of HMRC management, but this discussion should take place with the facts on the table.

Thanks (0)
Replying to James Aughterson:
Tom Herbert
By Tom Herbert
20th Mar 2024 14:23

Fear not, dear James. I cover this off in the podcast we scrambled together this afternoon - keep watching your pod feeds!

My 'favourite' stat: a 40% reduction in civil servants defined as ‘tax professionals’ from 2016 to 2023 - more than 10,000 FTEs...

Thanks (2)
Replying to TomHerbert:
avatar
By James Aughterson
20th Mar 2024 17:38

What's the equivalent stats for; 1997 - 2010 and 2010 - 2016 ?

Thanks (0)
Pic01
By zxcvb
20th Mar 2024 13:25

Please will all you B****** get off the ADL Online Chat? I tried earlier and was told it was too busy to even transfer me to the ADL queue, but the first HMRC agent could answer ONE question. I was careful not to ask why for fear of being cut off!

And this is where they want us to go instead of phoning.......

Thanks (1)
Replying to zxcvb:
avatar
By lsoph25
20th Mar 2024 13:36

Don't worry. I was told yesterday that there will be a direct link to the ADL webchat in... March... ... so no need to have to get in a queue to be transferred to another queue....

Thanks (1)
avatar
By JD
20th Mar 2024 14:22

I think I will go and ring them now, from my double cab pick up....

Thanks (2)
avatar
By Paul Crowley
20th Mar 2024 14:23

HMRC complete WanKas

Thanks (2)

Pages