Home Money How to beat HMRC’s wall of silence and speak to a human! The experts’ tips on breaking through as phone lines shut over the summer

How to beat HMRC’s wall of silence and speak to a human! The experts’ tips on breaking through as phone lines shut over the summer

by Elijah
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The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has condemned HMRC's customer service for hitting an

The IRS closes one of its crucial helplines every summer, amid sweeping changes that will leave millions of people with reduced phone support.

From next month, taxpayers will no longer be able to speak to HM Revenue & Customs officers on its self-assessment helpline about their tax questions until the end of September.

The mass summer closure will be repeated each year to allow “helpline advisers to concentrate help where it is most needed”, according to HMRC.

The IRS will also permanently reduce its helpline between October and March, only taking “priority calls” while all others will be directed to its website.

This will leave millions of taxpayers without vital support at one of the busiest times for the tax office – as the January 31 deadline approaches each year.

How to beat HMRCs wall of silence and speak to

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has condemned HMRC’s customer service for hitting an “all-time low” with waiting times for callers increasing.

It follows a damning report last month by senior MPs in the Public Accounts Committee, who warned that customer service at HM Revenue & Customs had reached an all-time low.

He said the tax office had been in decline for five years and was “struggling to cope”.

Money Mail revealed in January the scale of the customer service breakdown after many readers told us how they had tried hard to pay their taxes but hit a brick wall, waiting a year for information. responses to their letters and encountering a lack of knowledge among officials as well as long waiting times on the phone.

But taxpayers will face even more difficulties when speaking to anyone at HMRC this year. So when exactly do the phone lines close and what can you do to reach an official?

When do the phone lines close?

Taxpayers only have three weeks to call the self-assessment helpline as it will be closed from April 8 until September 30, when it will reopen for priority calls only.

During this time, anyone with a query will be directed online and invited to use their online chatbot.

The cuts represent a “vital modernization of the tax system”, according to HMRC, which will “enable more customers to self-serve and access the information they need more quickly and easily by going online or via the HMRC app, available 24 hours a day. /7.’

This follows a series of seasonal trials last year, which HMRC said enabled HMRC to help more customers.

Helplines were closed between June 12 and September 4 last year and the service was reduced to priority calls only ahead of the self-assessment tax return deadline on January 31.

HMRC said that around two thirds of calls to its self-assessment helpline can be resolved much more quickly using its online services. He added that last year he received more than three million calls regarding queries that could easily and simply be done online, such as resetting an online password, getting your tax code and finding your national insurance number.

It also said callers would be informed of its many online services via recorded messages and text messages.

However, Money Mail revealed in January that some taxpayers had found they could not get crucial answers to their questions in time to meet the self-assessment deadline. Readers told stories of how they had been locked out of their accounts or hadn’t yet received the letters they needed to file their returns and couldn’t get answers online.

HM Revenue and Custom, whose head office (pictured) is in Parliament Street, central London, closed its tax helpline between April 8 and September 30.

HM Revenue and Custom, whose head office (pictured) is in Parliament Street, central London, closed its tax helpline between April 8 and September 30.

HM Revenue and Custom, whose head office (pictured) is in Parliament Street, central London, closed its tax helpline between April 8 and September 30.

Victoria Todd, of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, a professional body, says taxpayers needing extra support will now have to jump through hoops to find someone who can help them.

She adds: “We have still not seen any evidence to support HMRC’s claim that around two-thirds of callers to the Self-Assessment Helpline can process their claim online, and we are concerned about the robustness of the evaluations that have been carried out. used to justify this decision.

If not, how can I contact HMRC?

Taxpayers are being asked to look for answers on HMRC’s website or smartphone app, where its online guidance includes written advice, recorded webinars, YouTube videos and a “digital assistant”.

The Tax Office says its HMRC online services are very successful, with satisfaction rates above 80%.

However, Robert Salter, of leading tax firm Blick Rothenberg, warns that the advice given on the website is often unclear – and in some cases it is downright incorrect. He says: “There is a lot of nonsense on the HMRC portals, and I have seen people giving advice that is not correct, particularly when the lines are somewhat blurred when it comes to workers’ taxes independent.

“It’s disappointing that they would do this and refuse to listen to public and expert feedback.”

Taxpayers can ask questions to the “digital assistant,” which is an online chatbot. But even as an expert, Mr. Salter says he found this method difficult to use when he had to resort to it for personal taxes.

He says: “Even when you get an answer, all the nuances of your personal case are lost, so it’s only a partial answer. »

Use this tip to speak to officials at HMRC, which says all customers should be able to speak to HMRC advisers online when their query is not dealt with by its online advice.

But Kelly Sizer, a senior executive at the Low Income Tax Reform Group, says those who ask the chatbot questions won’t automatically be connected to an advisor, even if they don’t get a satisfactory answer.

She says: “You come into contact with a bot first, and you won’t necessarily be put in contact directly with a real person from HMRC – that’s the first hurdle. »

You have to enter a specific request to be able to achieve this, she says. In the chat, you risk being put through to an official if you write: “I would like to speak to an advisor,” according to Ms. Sizer.

Parents might be stung

Reducing customer services will make it harder for taxpayers to understand what they owe and ensure they pay on time, Salter warns.

Those caught in complex tax rules could face the greatest difficulty, he says.

This applies, for example, to young parents stung by the burden of child benefits on high incomes.

This benefit begins to decline when a parent earns £50,000 and is phased out entirely for those earning £60,000 a year. However, families are not always aware that they must repay the child benefit they received and may receive a large tax bill – and a fine – years later.

Mr Salter says: “Surely it is incumbent upon HMRC to do a proper job of informing people of the tax they owe.

What happens with refunds?

Taxpayers will no longer be able to make inquiries regarding unpaid refunds or overpaid tax via the PAYE helpline, HMRC has said.

This will make it much more difficult for people to recover the money they are owed, Mr Salter says.

He says: “It is ten times more difficult to get a refund than it was five years ago. But this is about to get even more difficult because it’s not something you can easily implement online.

“It will be more difficult to get clarification or for taxpayers to understand their obligations,” he says.

Sizer says online services let you see your personal information but don’t give you the ability to ask where a tax refund is.

The only recourse for those affected will be to make a formal complaint against HMRC, it says.

Will there be some leniency?

No, according to Mr. Salter, it is extremely unlikely that taxpayers will receive additional leniency if they delay filing their tax returns because of unanswered questions.

He says: “It is unlikely that you will have more room to maneuver. They are putting more pressure on individuals to resolve their own questions, but the basic regulations regarding late filings have not changed and there is no reason to assume that they will.

  • What do you think of the changes? Get in touch


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