Call wait times to be included on HMRC helplines

Tax Comments Off on Call wait times to be included on HMRC helplines

After “a successful trial period”, HMRC has decided to extend its call time information messages to more of its helplines in a bid to give taxpayers and agents a better understanding of how long they can expect to be waiting on the phone.

According to HMRC’s most recent stakeholder digest, the extension, which came into effect on 4 July, will allow callers to make an “informed choice about whether they want to hang on, use our digital services or call back another time”.

Callers who have dealt with HMRC’s PAYE helpline are likely to already be aware of HMRC’s automated wait time messaging. However, the extension now covers the following services:

  • Child benefit ​
  • Tax credits ​
  • VAT ​
  • Online services ​
  • National insurance​
  • Construction Industry Scheme​
  • Employers

 ​The driving force behind HMRC’s decision was the apparent success of introducing automated messaging into services such as the PAYE helpline, with a spokesperson noting that thanks to this addition, “wait times reduced from 40 minutes at the start of the trial, to consistently below 20 minutes”.

The spokesperson added: “We want to be open and transparent about how long our customers can expect to wait and encourage the use of our digital services which are quicker and easier than calling us.”

Meanwhile, HMRC is also showing the wait time for its web chat for self assessment. Taxpayers using this service see the message: “Thank you for your patience, your estimated wait time is…” and then a timer counts down from that point.

The extension comes only a month after the announced closure of HMRC’s self assessment helpline over the summer and the transfer of 350 of its call handlers to other telephone services during the three-month closure. HMRC said that the decision was taken to divert resources and improve overall customer service levels.

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