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5.7m taxpayers still to file tax returns

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The clock is ticking for the nearly 5.7m taxpayers left to file their 2022/23 tax return before the 31 January deadline, who are having to do so with limited telephone support.

2nd Jan 2024
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There may be less than a month before the self assessment deadline, but 5.7m taxpayers still haven’t managed to tick this task off their 2023 to-do list before welcoming in the New Year.

This number of taxpayers left to file mirrors the number at the start of 2023

Filing over the festive period

Of the 6.5m taxpayers who have already filed, a number used the Christmas and New Year period to tackle their tax obligations. 

HMRC has reported that 23,724 taxpayers filed on New Year’s Day – this is more than the 17,571 taxpayers last January who stuck to their New Year resolution to submit their tax return. 

On New Year’s Eve, 25,593 taxpayers filed their returns, with 127 opting to complete theirs moments after singing Auld Lang Syne – between midnight and 12.59am. 

Similarly, taxpayers and accountants used the three-day Christmas period to give themselves the present of tax return-free January. 

HMRC has revealed that 25,769 returns were filed over the festive period. Christmas Eve saw 8,876 filed, while 4,757 were submitted on Christmas Day, with the peak seeing 402 returns filed as the turkey was being carved between noon and 12.59pm. There was slightly more action on Boxing Day, with 12,136 tax returns filed. 

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: “The clock is ticking for those customers yet to file their tax return. Don’t put it off – kick start the new year by sorting your self assessment.”

Lloyd’s rallying call for taxpayers to not leave their tax returns until the last minute comes as HMRC has limited telephone support in the run up to the 31 January deadline. 

Helpline restrictions

In early December, HMRC announced that it will be screening calls until the deadline to assess the complexity of taxpayers’ and agents’ questions, and any that it thinks can be answered using online resources will be directed to a digital service. 

Meanwhile, the Agent Dedicated Line will take calls only about self assessment filing, and payments and repayments, during this SA peak, leaving agents with other queries, including PAYE, having to use other channels or online assistance. 

Shortly before Christmas, HMRC also reminded agents to “not use multiple contact channels when trying to contact us”. As an example, it said that agents shouldn’t call and use the webchat at the same time for the same query as “this is creating additional and needless demand for our services”.

AccountingWEB readers have raised concerns about the restrictions. Regular reader Fact Checker, who flagged the HMRC missive to agents on Any Answers, said: “People (whether agents or taxpayers) don’t in general choose to phone HMRC as one of several options. They do so because the other options don’t exist or (frequently) exist but are broken, and the need for an answer or a resolution is desperate.”

The new restrictions to the telephone support service comes after the self assessment helplines were closed for three months during the summer, sparking fears at the time that it would create a bottleneck of taxpayers trying to file in January. 

As reader Open All Hours reflected in December: “If HMRC had been capable of dealing with matters promptly at the less busy time there would not be a need to chase them at a more busy time.”

Last January, the average wait times for the helpline increased to 27 minutes, compared to 12 minutes in January 2022. 

Replies (5)

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By FactChecker
02nd Jan 2024 19:29

Whilst faintly amusing to imagine the reality behind facts like "On New Year’s Eve .. 127 (taxpayers) opting to complete their (SA tax return) moments after singing Auld Lang Syne – between midnight and 12.59am" ... stone-cold sober and totally focussed on accuracy/completeness of course (as opposed to imbibing sufficient Dutch courage to face a quick session of lying through their teeth)?

There is a danger in falling for HMRC's annual PR attempt to deflect attention from the key issues - including, as Richard points out, the accelerating decline in quantity and quality of support from HMRC. Other major contributory factors (as aired on this forum from time to time) include:
* HMRC's inconsistently applied approach as to who really does/doesn't need to file SA
* Their apparent inability (or is it just unwillingness) to publish how many of those naughty "nearly 5.7m taxpayers" will never file (for whatever reason) + how many do file (but late and pay a penalty)

Underpinning those unpublished stats will be even more interesting figures that I sincerely hope HMRC is capable of and willing to look into - such as:
* How many of the 'no filers' are constant in their failure (year by year), and after how long do HMRC 'write-off' the chase?
* Conversely, how many result in a full enquiry, and what is their average amount of tax at stake?

We can all think of more questions that should be asked (and ideally answered), but the common theme is that HMRC's messages are confusing / their systems creaking / their support nearly fully depleted ... and yet they are still 'marking their own homework' and getting away with a quality of PR that is a prime contender for being improved by AI!

Thanks (3)
Ivor Windybottom
By Ivor Windybottom
03rd Jan 2024 08:52

Surely the headline should be 6.5m taxpayers have filed their Tax Returns early, with only 5.7m looking to comply with the filing deadline!?!

Unfortunately I filed early, so have compounded the problem... sometimes you just get ahead of yourself. My New Year's resolution is to be more compliant with deadlines.

Thanks (0)
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By JustAnotherUser
03rd Jan 2024 10:30

If HMRC was a real business, any KPI they had would be in the bin, any stat such as NPS or CSat would be in the negative. No one would recommend them and they would go out of business.

Poor support, to many queries, bad access, wait times, queues, bad feedback are all issues business's face daily and heavily invest in solving... not these guys, just close the lines and let them figure it out on their own.

Thanks (1)
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By Jane Wanless
03rd Jan 2024 13:09

I helped my husband file his return online on New Years Day.

Today he asked why he'd received an e-mail from HMRC reminding him to file his return. I can sympathise with his view that if he filed on 1/1, they system should have recognised it by 2/1, and he shouldn't have been bothered by a reminder on 3/1. Banks. shopping etc process info promptly. Shouldn't HMRC manage the same if they're "at the forefront of digital technology"?

Thanks (1)
Replying to janewanless:
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By FactChecker
03rd Jan 2024 18:48

Shame that you're not looking to score a point against him ... else you could have suggested that he phones HMRC to ask them!

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