More than a third of calls to HMRC were left unanswered in February as levels of service declined and wait times worsened

by | Apr 13, 2023

The latest HMRC performance report shows that 35% of calls to HMRC call centers were not answered compared with 27.8% in January. At the same time, 69% of callers waited more than 10 minutes for the call to be picked up, the worst performance since April 2022, while the average pick-up time was 21 minutes and 40 seconds, which marked a low for the year, and compared with 12 minutes and 35 seconds for the same time a year ago.

HMRC figures showed that 64.7% of calls were handled, an improvement on the 60% recorded in January during the height of the self-assessment season when HMRC restricted use of phone lines due to workload. However, this was down from 77.9% of calls answered in February 2022, highlighting the ongoing complaints by accountants and tax advisers about HMRC service levels.

During February, HMRC received 3,229,945 calls, up 20% compared with 2.68m calls in February 2022. This is despite the tax authority’s attempts to push people to use online services and webchat to resolve queries.

Despite the long-term decline in response times and call handling, 76.7% of taxpayers said they were satisfied with phone, webchat and digital services, only 3% down on the previous month despite the decline in performance. However, this figure was down on last year’s high of 82.3% in June.

As the new tax year starts, the problems facing HMRC, tax advisers and taxpayers are only going to get worse.

Glenn Collins, head of technical and strategic engagement at ACCA, said: ‘The March Budget was completely silent on the problems and so missed the opportunity to resource the UK’s tax authority adequately.

‘Looking ahead to some of the changes to the tax system we know about, the problems facing HMRC, tax advisers and taxpayers are only going to get worse. ACCA members and other tax advisers are facing long delays – hanging on the phone for an hour or more to sort out the simplest query with HMRC.

‘It would be good to see a long-term action plan but in the short term the government does have an urgent duty not to make a bad situation even worse.’

Last autumn the leading tax and accountancy professional bodies wrote to the Chancellor asking him to prioritize funding for HMRC to improve service standards which were falling below acceptable levels, while MPs on the Treasury Committee have also called for significant improvements as a matter of urgency.

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