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Phone | AccountingWEB | Major shake-up for HMRC's helplines
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HMRC to make permanent cuts to helplines

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HMRC has announced that its self assessment phoneline will close between April and September every year following a trial of the move in 2023, while also making permanent cuts to the VAT and PAYE helplines.

19th Mar 2024
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UPDATE 20 March: HMRC has performed a remarkable u-turn on plans to make permanent cuts to its helplines, less than 24 hours after proposals were unveiled. Read the story here.

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HMRC has announced that its self assessment phoneline will close between April and September every year, while permanent cuts are also being made to both the PAYE and VAT helplines. The ICAEW and CIOT have strongly criticised the move.

Between April and September, self assessment customers will now be directed to self-serve through HMRC’s online services.

The move follows a similar announcement last year, when HMRC announced the closure of the VAT registration helpline, giving agents and taxpayers just five days’ warning that the service will end.

HMRC closing their self assessment helpline was trialled last year for three months from 12 June.

Now a permanent fixture, it is one of several changes being made, including:

  • between October and March, the self assessment helpline will be open to deal with priority queries, with those that can be “quickly and easily resolved online” again being directed to the online services
  • the VAT helpline will be open for five days every month ahead of the deadline for filing VAT returns – outside of this time, customers will again be directed to use HMRC’s online services
  • the PAYE helpline will no longer take calls from customers relating to refunds but will instead be directed to the online services

However, there are no further changes to the Agent Dedicated Line at present.

HMRC noted that as with the self assessment trials, the impact of these latest changes “will be monitored and reviewed”.

'Online services have transformed our lives' 

The move to online self-service for self assessment and VAT is a “vital element” of HMRC’s modernisation of the tax system, the department said, in a bid to allow “more customers to self-serve and access the information they need more quickly and easily by going online or to the HMRC app”.

“There will also always be support available for those who cannot use online services.”

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s second permanent secretary and deputy chief executive, added: “Online services have transformed our lives and often provide a better service for managing tax – they’re quicker, easier and always available.

“Changing our services to encourage customers to self-serve online wherever possible will allow our helpline advisers to focus support where it is most needed - helping those with complex tax queries and those who are vulnerable and need extra support.

“We must maximise every pound of taxpayers’ money. Embracing online self-service allows us to help more customers and improve our customer service levels without spending additional public money.”

Profession responds

Responding to the changes, Caroline Miskin, ICAEW senior technical manager, digital taxation, called the permanent move to answer calls to its VAT helpline on five business days a month “disappointing, as it is likely to cause high demand, long waiting times and lots of hassle for businesses”.

“While HMRC has evaluated the trial to close the self assessment helpline during the summer months, it doesn’t plan to formally review it any further, even though the impact of this move on the accuracy of returns won’t be clear for some time.

“Since restricting the self assessment helpline, HMRC has been quick to promote the fact that a record number of taxpayers met the self assessment deadline. However, more people also missed the deadline and some online services require significant improvement.”

CIOT president Gary Ashford was equally as damning in his comment on the helpline closures. 

“We are deeply dismayed that, so soon after the criticisms levelled at them by the Public Accounts Committee, and in the light of an inconclusive evaluation, HMRC have decided to make these big, permanent cuts to the help they provide to taxpayers. If last year’s announcement of the summer closure of the Self-Assessment helpline was a ‘flashing indicator’ that HMRC can’t cope, today’s announcements are a blinding light.

“HMRC’s own evaluation of both the closure of the helpline in summer 2023, and the helpline restrictions during the 2024 self-assessment peak, concluded that it is too early to say if there has been a long-term shift from phone contact to online self-service. Yet HMRC have decided to go ahead anyway."

Chair of the Treasury Select Committee Harriett Baldwin called it a “great shame” that HMRC has “decided now is the time to essentially close down any avenues for people to contact them over the phone for huge parts of the year”.

“I say once again, these are well-meaning people just trying to get their taxes right.

“We've heard time and time again that every effort is being made to direct people to resolve issues online. The Committee welcomes efforts to make the tax system more efficient but HMRC has not yet demonstrated that the department or the public are ready to make such a monumental change to how they resolve tax issues.

“This should not be forced upon taxpayers until there is evidence that people know how to do their taxes on HMRC's incredibly complex website.”

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Replies (210)

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Replying to djtax:
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By Red1960
20th Mar 2024 12:38

But unlike other postal correspondence addressed to HMRC you may be aware that it actually does get dealt with in less than time it takes an HMRC operative to answer a call on their "help" line.

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By helenmarie87
19th Mar 2024 14:49

Does anyone know if it is possible to use the ADL for VAT matters? Its all well and good HMRC telling agents "it's ok, you can still use the ADL" if it only actually covers self-assessment and PAYE, what about every body else??

Thanks (1)
Replying to helenmarie87:
Morph
By kevinringer
19th Mar 2024 14:54

No, the ADL can only handle SA (including CGT) and PAYE only. HMRC don't expect their own staff to understand more than one tax whilst at the same time they expect Joe the Plumber to have good working knowledge of SA, PAYE, CIS (contractor and subcontractor) and VAT, and still run his business, price for jobs, issue quotes, manage jobs, order materials, arrange labour, bill jobs, chase payment, check expense invoices, pay expenses and of course install boilers and make sure all is Gas Safe etc. All HMRC expect their own staff to do is to have knowledge of a tiny aspect of one tax.

Thanks (10)
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By GDavidson
19th Mar 2024 15:13

Does everybody know "We will continue to provide our webchat service throughout the year, where customers will get support from advisers". No-one seems to mention it on here. Clients I have spoken to have found it works fine. So what's the problem?

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Replying to GDavidson:
Morph
By kevinringer
19th Mar 2024 15:36

I have used webchat for SA and PAYE enquiries. There are problems. 1 The webchat starts with the AI chatbot that will only answer basic stuff and we need to persuade the AI chatbot to put us in the queue for the HMRC human webchat. 2 When we eventually get through to the human webchat, they won't deal with agents and put us in a queue for the HMRC agent who deals with humans. 3 The human agent webchat won't deal with everything the ADL will handle. For example, during January the ADL wouldn't deal with PAYE coding enquiries so we had to use the webchat, but in February HMRC switched and the webchat refused to handle PAYE coding enquiries and told us to use the ADL. 4 The overall queue times for the webchat is less than the ADL, but the webchat process is slower than the ADL. I type quite fast and even copying and pasting UTRs etc from our tax software means the overall duration of handling a matter on webchat is slower. 5 One key advantage of webchat is we can save the transcript so have evidence of the exchange. Try it for yourself and let us know what you think of it.

Thanks (3)
Replying to GDavidson:
Morph
By kevinringer
19th Mar 2024 15:42

The webchat would be much better if we launched it from within our agent portal after loading the client. Because we've already cleared security (using our agent user ID and password) to log into the portal, we wouldn't need to pass security for the webchat. Also, because we launch the webchat from the loaded client, we wouldn't need to laboriously input the client details into webchat. Thirdly, because we have logged into the agent portal, HMRC could set the webchat to go direct to HMRC's human agent webchat and save time. Finally, the transcript could be saved in the client record in the agent portal and we could refer HMRC back to it if we have to progress chase.

Thanks (4)
Replying to kevinringer:
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By djtax
19th Mar 2024 17:12

Kevin - constructive suggestions as ever - but from my attendance at the recent HMRC Annual Conference it appears that their sole concern is to 'enhance' (?) 'services' (?) to their 'customers', with no thought to improving anything for us lowly agents.

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By Ammie
19th Mar 2024 15:38

Now bring on MTD and see how matters develop.

The heat is on for HMRC.

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By claudialowe
19th Mar 2024 15:45

A total fustercluck........................

Thanks (1)
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By moneymanager
19th Mar 2024 15:47

That makes pefect sense, assuming that we have moved to a social credit, programmed CBDC, form of communist corporate statehood, why are we accepting this carp?

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By mikejlee
19th Mar 2024 16:02

HMRC's update for Agents says "These changes do not affect the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL) which will operate as normal."

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Replying to mikejlee:
Morph
By kevinringer
19th Mar 2024 16:14

The VAT helpline is affected and there is no ADL for VAT.

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Replying to mikejlee:
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By helenmarie87
19th Mar 2024 16:14

Yes, but the ADL only deals with SA and PAYE. Anything else, and you're screwed. Ain't that wonderful "customer service".....!

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Morph
By kevinringer
19th Mar 2024 16:06

"HMRC has announced that its self assessment phoneline will close between April and September"

HMRC wants everyone to file early, so HMRC closes the helpline just as the filing window opens, then has the helpline open for the 2-month gap between the SA deadline and the start of the next filing season. There's joined up thinking for you. Maybe it is to allow agent to progress chase all the Tax Returns HMRC has failed to capture and unissued tax refunds.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By 0098087
19th Mar 2024 16:14

Still trying to get refunds from months ago. Do it online they don't process it. Have told the client they'll have to0 call as I'm getting nowhere. Really makes me look good. I'm so so sick of this crap. No wonder people in the south are selling up, moving up north and stacking shelves in Tesco with no worries.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By 0098087
19th Mar 2024 16:14

Still trying to get refunds from months ago. Do it online they don't process it. Have told the client they'll have to0 call as I'm getting nowhere. Really makes me look good. I'm so so sick of this crap. No wonder people in the south are selling up, moving up north and stacking shelves in Tesco with no worries.

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Caroline
By accountantccole
19th Mar 2024 16:32

It is rare that France beat the UK on admin, but I thought I would just check what is available for our local tax office.
Direct phone number to them. I can also walk in off the street any weekday morning.
There is also the option of completing an online form.
We, as agents, can also log into our client's Impots page and make enquiries directly through their portal.
As long as we have agent authority in place they are happy to talk to us
It isn't rocket science.......
Guess that is why we pay so much tax, it actually finances public services...

Thanks (2)
Replying to accountantccole:
RLI
By lionofludesch
19th Mar 2024 16:45

accountantccole wrote:

It is rare that France beat the UK on admin, but I thought I would just check what is available for our local tax office.
Direct phone number to them. I can also walk in off the street any weekday morning.
There is also the option of completing an online form.
We, as agents, can also log into our client's Impots page and make enquiries directly through their portal.
As long as we have agent authority in place they are happy to talk to us
It isn't rocket science.......
Guess that is why we pay so much tax, it actually finances public services...

That's what a hundred years of austerity policies bring you.

Well, it seems like a hundred years.......

Thanks (2)
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By coleprice
19th Mar 2024 16:41

From the 8th April 2024 until further notice our firm will be moving all interaction with HMRC online. Telephone calls will be dealt with by our webchat service. We guarantee a response rate even slower than that of HMRC. Correspondence will be answered by our AI-trained-and-informed chatbot personnel offering the ultimate in fictitious case law, enough to keep the courts busy for years.

Online services have transformed our lives and often provide a better service for managing tax – they’re quicker, easier and always available. They will never lose patience or tear their hair out when forced to wait hours for an answer, or expend hours trying to find an answer in an online maze.

Changing our services to encourage HMRC to self-serve online wherever possible will allow us to focus support where it is most needed helping those who are vulnerable and need extra support, burnt-out accountants for example.

The only casualties of the endless cycle of electronic gibberish this move will generate will be our joint customers, the taxpayers. Who gives a toss about them though.

Thanks (3)
RLI
By lionofludesch
19th Mar 2024 16:43

You realise that this has caught the public attention when posts appear on the Total Rugby League Fans Forum.

https://www.totalrl.com/forums/index.php?/topic/376772-the-new-tory-part...

Thanks (2)
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By mumpin
19th Mar 2024 16:55

Every cloud has a silver lining…

People on this thread hark on about 15/20 years ago when you could get straight through on the ADL…

But the flip side was my small practice had to deal with 4 to 8 Vat Inspections each year and maybe 2 to 4 Tax Inspections and numerous Aspect Enquiries.

None of that happens now. Paying tax is pretty much optional. Someone on another thread said that we are at the far end of the Laffer Curve. This reinforces that viewpoint.

Thanks (0)
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By Latinaid
19th Mar 2024 17:16

I used webchat yesterday. The agent tried to help, but couldn't resolve my query, and told me to phone. I guess I'd better do that before April. *sigh*

Thanks (1)
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By Theresa Parker
19th Mar 2024 17:31

I still don't understand in this day and age, why HMRC do not have specific email addresses, that you can simply send a query and they can respond. I would rather have to wait a couple of days for a response, than waste an hour on the phone!

Thanks (1)
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By Dogracer
19th Mar 2024 18:29

Maybe it is time for the Professionals Bodies to co-ordinate some direct action

If everyone refuses to file vat returns, PAYE, CT, SA etc etc and not pay any amounts due then a government will have to take action. They can’t call in the troops. If we were French we would be burning sheep by now

But being citizens of UK we will do nothing and just moan

Thanks (1)
Replying to Dogracer:
RLI
By lionofludesch
19th Mar 2024 19:07

Dogracer wrote:

Maybe it is time for the Professionals Bodies to co-ordinate some direct action

If everyone refuses to file vat returns, PAYE, CT, SA etc etc and not pay any amounts due then a government will have to take action. They can’t call in the troops. If we were French we would be burning sheep by now

But being citizens of UK we will do nothing and just moan

Who's paying the penalties?

Thanks (0)
Replying to Dogracer:
avatar
By Latinaid
20th Mar 2024 12:49

[quote=Dogracer]

Maybe it is time for the Professionals Bodies to co-ordinate some direct action

If everyone refuses to file vat returns, PAYE, CT, SA etc etc and not pay any amounts due then a government will have to take action. They can’t call in the troops. If we were French we would be burning sheep by now

But being citizens of UK we will do nothing and just moan

[/quote

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Dogracer:
avatar
By Latinaid
20th Mar 2024 12:49

[quote=Dogracer]

Maybe it is time for the Professionals Bodies to co-ordinate some direct action

If everyone refuses to file vat returns, PAYE, CT, SA etc etc and not pay any amounts due then a government will have to take action. They can’t call in the troops. If we were French we would be burning sheep by now

But being citizens of UK we will do nothing and just moan

[/quote

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Dogracer:
avatar
By Latinaid
20th Mar 2024 12:49

[quote=Dogracer]

Maybe it is time for the Professionals Bodies to co-ordinate some direct action

If everyone refuses to file vat returns, PAYE, CT, SA etc etc and not pay any amounts due then a government will have to take action. They can’t call in the troops. If we were French we would be burning sheep by now

But being citizens of UK we will do nothing and just moan

[/quote

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Dogracer:
avatar
By Latinaid
20th Mar 2024 12:49

[quote=Dogracer]

Maybe it is time for the Professionals Bodies to co-ordinate some direct action

If everyone refuses to file vat returns, PAYE, CT, SA etc etc and not pay any amounts due then a government will have to take action. They can’t call in the troops. If we were French we would be burning sheep by now

But being citizens of UK we will do nothing and just moan

[/quote

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Dogracer:
avatar
By Latinaid
20th Mar 2024 12:49

[quote=Dogracer]

Maybe it is time for the Professionals Bodies to co-ordinate some direct action

If everyone refuses to file vat returns, PAYE, CT, SA etc etc and not pay any amounts due then a government will have to take action. They can’t call in the troops. If we were French we would be burning sheep by now

But being citizens of UK we will do nothing and just moan

[/quote

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Dogracer:
avatar
By Latinaid
20th Mar 2024 12:49

[quote=Dogracer]

Maybe it is time for the Professionals Bodies to co-ordinate some direct action

If everyone refuses to file vat returns, PAYE, CT, SA etc etc and not pay any amounts due then a government will have to take action. They can’t call in the troops. If we were French we would be burning sheep by now

But being citizens of UK we will do nothing and just moan

[/quote

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Dogracer
19th Mar 2024 18:30

Maybe it is time for the Professionals Bodies to co-ordinate some direct action

If everyone refuses to file vat returns, PAYE, CT, SA etc etc and not pay any amounts due then a government will have to take action. They can’t call in the troops. If we were French we would be burning sheep by now

But being citizens of UK we will do nothing and just moan

Thanks (0)
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By philomena
19th Mar 2024 18:33

It beggars belief! We need to lobby our MP'S this is just so unstainable. I also googled Treasury of HMRC - He should be sacked but how do we do it!

Thanks (0)
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By Postingcomments
19th Mar 2024 18:59

Let's come up with ways to protest.

My idea is to submit all 23/24 SA returns by post.
Print them out and post them in before 31/10.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Postingcomments:
RLI
By lionofludesch
19th Mar 2024 19:10

Postingcomments wrote:

Let's come up with ways to protest.

My idea is to submit all 23/24 SA returns by post.
Print them out and post them in before 31/10.

That's a more realistic plan.

Thanks (0)
Replying to lionofludesch:
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By FactChecker
19th Mar 2024 19:46

Shame those couldn't all be sent FREEPOST ... it's almost as though HMRC knew 15 years ago that 'everything digital' wasn't a rock solid philosophy.

The Times - 2008:
"From October 1, HMRC will stop sending pre-paid envelopes with VAT, CT, PAYE and Excise forms, as well as freepost envelopes sent to taxpayers to allow them to send a cheque to cover their self-assessment tax bill free of charge.
Customs said the move would save £8 million and would encourage people to file online, which, it said, would be more environmentally friendly.
But experts criticised HMRC’s efforts to boost online filing, which comes less than a year after the department lost the bank and employment details of 25 million people."

Ah, happy carefree days!

Thanks (2)
Replying to FactChecker:
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By jajo
20th Mar 2024 07:14

My two best HMRC responses

1) We do have your letter buts its fallen behind a filing cabinet and we cant read it.
2) its not our fault, we employ people you wouldn't even let in your building.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Postingcomments:
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By Tom+Cross
20th Mar 2024 08:25

It would be a substantial, extra cost, to factor in. And Royal Mail have become ‘infected’ with the same lethargy which HMRC contracted.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tom+Cross:
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By Postingcomments
20th Mar 2024 09:11

Few things are costless. You have to decide for yourself.
Sacrificing less than one tax return fee to post in every return is worth it for me.

The real cost might be in RM losing 10% of them and then HMRC miskeying 15% of the 90% they get, and you having no easy way of making a correction........

Thanks (0)
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By Cathy54
19th Mar 2024 19:29

It took me 6 years of calls to HMRC to sort out 1 payroll issue, after writing as well. Which they lost the first time! They even moved the problem to another year. The number of times they cut me off! Hours of waiting. HMRC even at one told me that they couldn't help me! Another said when I told them I didn't owe the money, they replied that 'HMRC don't work like that'. They need to put more on the lines that know what they are talking about, not less, And to get out of their Bedrooms! I did sort it in the end!

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By Tom+Cross
19th Mar 2024 20:14

Going back to basics, what does Aweb propose, as a ‘solution’ to this announcement? HMRC is a publicly funded extension of HM Government. Other public bodies (The Post Office for one) have been proved to be wanting. In other words, completely unfit for purpose.
HMRC, our primary tax administrator/collector appears now similarly placed and variously demonstrates to be incapable of the ability to perform its expected responsibilities.
Do we all just sit on our hands, and think of England? Harra and his cohorts must be held to account.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tom+Cross:
VAT
By Jason Croke
19th Mar 2024 22:59

Tom+Cross wrote:

Going back to basics, what does Aweb propose, as a ‘solution’ to this announcement? HMRC is a publicly funded extension of HM Government. Other public bodies (The Post Office for one) have been proved to be wanting. In other words, completely unfit for purpose.
HMRC, our primary tax administrator/collector appears now similarly placed and variously demonstrates to be incapable of the ability to perform its expected responsibilities.
Do we all just sit on our hands, and think of England? Harra and his cohorts must be held to account.


Harra is guaranteed a knighthood, his reward for failure, must take a special kind of person to run a government agency into the ground and not give two hoots, he has destroyed a respected agency in a few years, all the scammers and fraudsters know HMRC are so useless that scammers can defraud and scam with zero consequences...remember the 11,000 Chinese companies all registered to one bloke in Wales? Harra said this was normal rather than admit they don't have the staff or expertise to stop it.

Like Post Office, they can't accept they are wrong and blame everyone else, you can't change an organisation or radically shift to digital if you can't accept mistakes will be made. HMRC have never admitted any errors....delays are due to covid or too many taxpayers not using online, etc.

Thanks (5)
Replying to Tom+Cross:
Morph
By kevinringer
20th Mar 2024 09:33

HMRC shows contempt for Parliament, which has more clout than we do. But the Post Office was the same and Parliament only woke up to the Post Office after Mr Bates v The Post Office. We need ITV to broadcast Mr Smith v HMRC.

Thanks (3)
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By harveywinning
20th Mar 2024 07:04

Silly question - HMRC have 66,000 staff - what are they actually doing????

Thanks (2)
Replying to harveywinning:
VAT
By Jason Croke
20th Mar 2024 09:27

harveywinning wrote:

Silly question - HMRC have 66,000 staff - what are they actually doing????


All "working" from home and attending diversity webinars :)
Thanks (4)
Replying to harveywinning:
VAT
By Jason Croke
20th Mar 2024 09:27

harveywinning wrote:

Silly question - HMRC have 66,000 staff - what are they actually doing????


All "working" from home and attending diversity webinars :)
Thanks (1)
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By Polybin
20th Mar 2024 08:20

Online services, ha! Have they heard, there’s a new communication system called email online. Perhaps HMRC could start using that.

Thanks (1)
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By Polybin
20th Mar 2024 08:20

Online services, ha! Have they heard, there’s a new communication system called email online. Perhaps HMRC could start using that.

Thanks (1)
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By Rob Swan
20th Mar 2024 09:19

178 comments as of this posting.
Hilarious - not really, shameful! But if I didn't laugh I'd be sobbing unconsolably in a pool of my own tears. Oh... How the mighty have fallen.

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