The worst kept secret for at least the past few decades is that if you’re looking to pop a call to HMRC then you might as well take the day off work to do it because that is how long it will take you to get through (slight overdramatisation acknowledged). Now that we are in 2023, the era of customer focused processes and digitisation, you’d think that this problem would have been resolved by now, but unfortunately you’d be wrong.
As accountants we do what we can to shield our clients from the excessive phone wait times by making calls to HMRC on their behalf (where permissions allow) by using the agent dedicated helpline that HMRC set up for agents to discuss their client’s personal tax matters. Historically this line has had a far shorter wait time when compared to the public use line, which therefore allowed us to get matters rectified more efficiently…..until now.
In recent months HMRC have taken the step to suspend, and in some cases close completely, certain major telephone helplines, citing their lack of resources as being the main driver for this decision. Thankfully the agent line has been protected from the closures, but since that line still faces reduced resources the service provided has also reduced significantly.
Just a year ago the average wait time to speak to a HMRC operative on the agent line was approximately 4 minutes, now that average is more like 40 minutes! This means that accountants like us are now spending much more of their working day listening to the same old HMRC hold music (which hasn’t changed in the 19 years that I’ve been in the profession), which in turn delays any resolution or updates for our clients.
Another extremely frustrating part of the system is that we can wait on hold for 40 minutes to get put through to an operative who then cuts the call, leaving us back at square one with no information at all. There are days when we are literally pulling our hair out in frustration!
HMRC’s solution to their lack of helpline support is to direct people to their online chat facility. Unfortunately, this facility is very hit and miss with its reliability. Some days we might get a “quick” answer from the chat facility, and then other days we will get the message to say that all the advisors are busy and that we should try again later.
It looks like HMRC are trying to adapt their systems to embrace the new technology lead world, but it would appear that they are far from getting a working solution. In the meantime, it looks like we will all have to deal with sub-par services from an under-resourced department until we have no hair left.
As you would expect from us, we will continue to battle for our clients and sit on the calls where we need to, but I’m hoping that this blog will help all small business owners understand that at the moment there is no such thing as a quick call to HMRC, so please be patient with your accountants (and maybe send them some wine…..they need it!).
Until next time readers….stay connected 😉