28% of people calling HMRC give up trying to get through
We noted last week that HMRC have so much time on their hands that they have nothing better to do than write virtually pointless releases about Olympic torches. And skips. We even made a joke about how long it takes them to answer the phone. Now, new figures show that almost 4 million people hung up while waiting to speak to HMRC last year.
Figures obtained by the Telegraph, under the Freedom of Information Act show that that 28% of callers gave up midway through their call to the pay-as-you-earn helpline, with the average time spent waiting on hold reaching five minutes 45 seconds. This is up from 10pc of abandoned calls in 2009, when the average waiting time was one minute 53 seconds.
But this is not the first time that Revenue telephone performance has been under scrutiny. A Treasury Select Committee report published last year said that less than 50% of callers to HMRC got through first time, compared with 90% in similar industries. The report described HMRC response to telephone calls as "patchy at best and unacceptable at worst" claiming that attempts to save money had been partly responsible for poor service standards and a lack of experienced staff at a senior level.
We don’t know where to begin with our outrage and vitriol. Average waiting time of nearly six minutes? More like 36 minutes- with people reporting that they have been on hold so long their telecom provider has cut them off before HMRC got round to answering. Something close to 50% of calls get straight through? Only if they are counting the people who have called seven times in one day anf finally get through on the last time. Saving money? Perhaps if Dave Hartnett hadn’t brushed away £10m+ from Goldman Sachs, or if Vodafone bothered paying any UK tax there would be more money to pay for customer service.
Of course, we are all ‘customers’ of HMRC, although paying tax is not a voluntary or leisure activity, and shocking customer service goes unheeded. The last Government figures showed that HMRC received more than 76,000 complaints from customers in 2010/11, up from 73,000 the previous year (but less than the 84,500 complaints in 2008/09 ). However, within these numbers, complaints over delays in response have increased by 31%, rising from 16,882 in 2008/09 to 22,185 in 2010/11.
Still, other than not answering the phone, it’s not like HMRC are getting everything else wrong is it? They’ve not sent out thousands of incorrect penalty notices or PAYE codes in recent years or anything. Besides, according to reports, car manufacturers are getting so CO2 efficient that the Government are considering raising road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) to refill depleted tax coffers, and it goes without saying that all that lovely money will undoubtedly be ploughed into improving HMRC’s service. No?