28% of people calling HMRC give up trying to get through

11 June 2012

telephoneWe 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?

TOPICS:   Consumer Advice   Mobile


  • Edward L.
    I was one of the 4 million! It's a joke!
  • Bob
    I needed to call them last week. I was on hold for 29 minutes before the call was answered
  • Wongaporkpies
    Every Government department should have an 0800 number not some revenue share number they have insisted on for years. People lose their jobs, so the last thing they can do without is a large phone bill trying to get their lives back on track for the better.
  • Vodafone
    Think we owed quite a lot of corporation tax, tried ringing quite a few times but either lost signal or when we did get through were put on hold for ages and ages. Gave up in the end and kept the money. Sod the HMRC and British Public
  • Alexis
    Girlfriend got a letter in September saying a cheque for overpayment would be on its way. No cheque arrived. Have written 3 times, and they simply ignore letters. Final one was a 'complaint', yet their 'complaints department' address is the same as the normal address. The one they never reply to.
  • Sicknote
    Not fucking true when you call to male a payment - 1 ring and they're already asking for the long number on your card and telling you the charge for credit cards is 3%
  • The f.
    You nutjobs do know that you can use the saynoto0870 site and call the geographic number? FUCK OFF TAXMAN I am not giving you money on my phone bill!
  • Spencer
    Here's a consumer tip that has a pretty high success rate, following on from what sicknote said... If ever you need to call a company and get presented with the following 4 options etc... press the required option to speak to the bill or payment dept... your call will almost always be answered quickly... at which point you explain you're query, they say "you've come through to the wrong Dept" you say transfer me then please... or put me through to switchboard. You then almost always get transferred and bypass a lot of listening to options and call waiting music....
  • unhappy'customer'
    so erm... 1:14 and counting... not minutes.. HOURS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • cuckinguslessfunts
    I have attempted 18 times today every time I get through to the last phase and.....were to busy to take your call sorry! Line goes dead. ARE YOU HAVING A LAUGH!!!
  • Jay
    Called to make a payment and got through to someone in under 30seconds, called to get a tax certificate for my business, voice automated software could not understand what I was asking, tried again, put on hold, hung up after 12 min

What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.

Your comment