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The extra funding, announced  by Financial Secretary to the Treasury Nigel Huddleston, comes following feedback which led to HMRC reversing its plans to close its self-assessment helplines from 8th April to 30th September as it pushes taxpayers towards using its digital services. 

Last year saw HMRC receiving more than three million calls on three simple queries that can be done digitally – resetting a password, obtaining a tax code, and getting a National Insurance number. 

By shifting these queries towards its digital services, HMRC hopes to free up its phonelines to help reduce waiting times for callers, such as small businesses, with more complex queries. 

Mr Huddleston said: “In support of this, the Chancellor invested over £136 million in the 2021 Spending Review to enable HMRC to enhance their digital services. HMRC received a £900 million cash increase over this Parliament, from £4.3 billion in 2019-20 to £5.2 billion in 2024-25.” 

“However, the Government is clear that while HMRC continue to make this digital transition, customers deserve a reliable and responsive service on traditional contact methods such as the phone lines.” 

The extra funding comes at the same time as the National Audit Office has released a report which revealed that HMRC’s phone and correspondences services were falling below expected service levels. 

Among the National Audit Office’s findings were that taxpayers were left on hold for seven million hours in 2023-24 – equivalent of 798 years – double the 3.2 million hours they spent on hold in 2019-20. 

The report said: “While many of HMRC’s digital services work well, they have not made enough of a difference to customer contact levels. In the face of funding pressures, HMRC has pressed on with attempts to reduce costs despite its poor performance. HMRC and customers have been caught in a declining spiral of service pressures and cuts. 

“HMRC has been unable to cope with telephone demand and consequently fallen short in processing correspondence and dealing with telephone calls according to procedures, creating further service pressures.” 

Date published 17 May 2024

Fraser McKay, MCIPR (Accredited)

Fraser is a highly experienced journalist and Accredited PR Professional and joined TaxAssist in 2016. He writes articles covering a wide range of topics relating to small businesses and accounting. In addition, Fraser provides communications training to the network, as well as looking after TaxAssist Accountants' national and local social media channels.

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