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Callers forced to wait 18 minutes to get HMRC helpline assistance

The average waiting time to speak to a real person on the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) helpline is 18 minutes, according to recent research by Which?

Their researchers made 100 calls to HMRC’s self-assessment and general enquiry helplines in an attempt to see just how easy it is to get through to an adviser.

The subsequent findings have left the independent consumer champion to brand the tax office helpline a ‘lottery’, with almost a third of callers cut off before they even got to speak with an adviser after being told it was because the helpline was ‘very busy’.

Although the average waiting time was 18 minutes, one caller was left hanging on the line for 41 minutes.

The investigation was carried out ahead of the self-assessment tax return deadline on 31st January.

But with a considerable number of self-employed professionals likely to disclose their tax affairs after the festive period it’s likely the volume of calls is only going to get worse until the end of January.

HMRC’s automated system also struggled with particular words and phrases. A query about ‘my tax code’ was okay, but when asked ‘Do I need to pay tax on premium bond winnings?’ it asked if the caller was asking to change a name or about a VAT surcharge notice.

Richard Lloyd, executive director, Which? said: “We’ve found people could face lengthy waits or even be cut off when trying to get assistance from HMRC’s helplines.

“With large numbers of people soon to be seeking help with their self-assessment tax return, we want to see HMRC doing more to monitor and improve their call-waiting times.”

Which? confirmed that it would be sharing its findings with the Treasury and HMRC and would also brief the Public Accounts Committee.

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