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Self assessment helpline jammed after long-awaited reopening

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With the self assessment helpline finally reopening after a lengthy hiatus, many taxpayers are finding themselves hanging on the telephone.

8th Sep 2023
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HMRC’s self assessment helpline has finally reopened after a three-month closure, giving taxpayers the opportunity to speak to an advisor. However, those callers hoping to get some phone help from HMRC will likely have to wait a bit longer.

According to some who have attempted to access the helpline, waiting times of up to an hour were the norm as callers battled to reach an advisor. AccountingWEB previously rang the helpline and was met with the message that their phone lines remain busy, however, it seems we weren’t the only ones met with a pre-recorded message.

The community reacts

Posing the question to the AccountingWEB community, users shared some of the stories they had encountered since the helpline’s reopening. 

On our Facebook page, Faheem Rathor mentioned that one of his clients attempted to get through, only to be sat waiting for 45 minutes.

Other users over on the Any Answers forum mentioned that their clients had struggled to access the service.

“I picked up a new client who couldn’t get through to HMRC. Maybe others have too,” wrote Matrix, while fellow user ireallyshouldknowthisbut quipped that “an hour is not an infrequent waiting time, it cuts you off after then.”

AccountingWEB's consulting tax editor Amy Chin tried to join the queue and found herself navigating HMRC’s call routing systems.

"After a recorded message warning of wait times up to 60 minutes I was taken through a series of automated questions and ultimately directed to the HMRC YouTube channel via a text to my mobile. 

At that point I ended my experiment and hung up to free the line for someone with an actual query,” Chin concluded.

HMRC’s response

HMRC said the first phase of the process has helped its agents deal with 250,000 additional repayments and that “reopening the helpline is simply the next phase of the trial.”

As the tax authority's continues with a ‘digital by default’ approach, HMRC noted that encouraging customers to use its digital channels was “crucial to improving our customer services".

A spokesperson added: "As expected, the helpline has been busy since it re-opened. Many customers can get an answer to their query quicker by going online and should use these services if they can. This will help ensure customers who need to speak to an advisor are able to do so.

In the meantime, after ringing the helpline again today, it seems that HMRC’s current average wait time has since dropped to 30 minutes.

Replies (7)

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By Catherine Newman
08th Sep 2023 16:49

The message only says there is an average wait time of 30 minutes. But what is it in reality? I am still not trying.

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By michael2022A
11th Sep 2023 10:13

When will HMRC understand that people only ring HMRC when they cannot find the answer online! I've yet to find a way to process a SATR repayment online when it has already been requested.

I'd be delighted if I could do everything online, anything to not listen to the on hold music for 30 mins per client would be a blessing!

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By Ammie
11th Sep 2023 10:21

Rang them Friday, service as bad, or maybe even worse, than ever.

Reached a new low.

Called the helpline, waited 40 minutes to get through, I had 3 separate case references of approximately 5 minutes each to resolve. After the first I was advised that the operatives work day had finished and that they will be stopping work and leaving for home! When challenged about the ludicrousy of the situation they advised that they should only be dealing with one case reference at a time anyway and that I should call separately for each reference query, therefore, in my case 3 times!

You just cannot make it up! There's a serious comedy film in it for Hollywood!

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Replying to Ammie:
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By michael2022A
11th Sep 2023 11:12

And they have the audacity to call taxpayers "customer".Appalling service, I have previously been advised that you should notify the customer services agent of the number of queries at the outset of the call.
Clearly the call centres targets are based on how many calls answered not how many taxpayer queries which would make more sense.

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By Cathro
11th Sep 2023 10:43

And laughably today trying to 'do things digitally' is out as HMRC's online services account seems to be down...

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Replying to Cathro:
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By KateR
11th Sep 2023 11:03

What a farce. Have been trying on and off since 7.30am. First it was 'service is unavailable', now 'localhost refused to connect'. No problems with other websites.

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By julianansell.hotmail
12th Sep 2023 08:12

Phoned this morning bang on 8am. Call answered promptly and response given by 8.10am. Call relates to overpayment relief first claimed in February, chased in June (response expected by 5 September) and now advised that technical department would be chased again and response is expected by 10 October.

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