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HMRC boss defends call waiting times

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has responded to claims that taxpayers are experiencing unnecessarily long call waiting times.

Chief Executive, Lin Homer, has spoken out after a report from Citizens Advice said thousands of people were waiting 47 minutes to get their calls answered.

“I don’t think the overall trend is worsening,” Homer told members of the Public Accounts Committee, but promised taxpayers a better service in the coming months.

“We aren’t answering enough calls within five minutes, but we are now doing more ‘once and done’ calls,” added Homer.

“We have already apologised for what we see as a failure in our performance at the end of last year, and the first couple of months of this year.”

Back in June, Homer apologised for the service, admitting it was “not up to scratch”, after figures showed that a quarter of all calls went unanswered.

The total number of telephone calls answered by HMRC fell from 79 per cent in 2013/14 to 72.5 per cent in 2014/15, according to figures from the National Audit Office (NAO).

Data from a Citizens Advice study during the last 12 months found that 11,500 frustrated callers vented their anger on Twitter. On average, those who tweeted were forced to wait an average of 47 minutes before their call was answered.

Nevertheless, HMRC responded to the survey believing it to be “unscientific” and “out-of-date”. In specific case, a user tweeted they had attempted to contact HMRC on four separate occasions and was forced to wait an hour for a response each time.

It was calculated by Citizens Advice that callers holding on the line to HMRC for an average of 47 minutes would be hit with £4.66 in call charges.

An HMRC spokesperson has confirmed it has taken on an additional 3,000 staff in a bid to reduce the delays.

“We are sorry that some customers have struggled to get hold of us, but this unscientific and out-of-date survey of tweets does not represent the real picture now.

“In reality, answer rates on our phones are improving and wait times are falling.”

Homer confirmed new telephone systems had been installed, which would also go some way to reducing waiting times.

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