HMRC warned over understaffing tax helplines

HMRC warned over

MPs have warned HMRC about understaffing their tax helplines, saying that they can't risk a “collapse in customer service", amid a digital revamp.

The public accounts committee has told the tax office not to "underestimate the demand for telephone contact", as HMRC look to cut costs of the personal tax services by 34% by 2021.

The report added that staff cuts is causing problems for tax payers, saying that people have spent "some four million hours waiting for HMRC to answer the phone" in the 2015-16 tax year.

Of course, time means money, with everyone hanging on while paying to be in a queue on 0300 phone numbers. That's 45p a minute on a mobile, and 12p per minute on a landline.

With the average time spent waiting at almost 35 minutes in one week in October 2015, and almost 30% of people just giving up on a call, you can see there's a problem.

"Every £1 saved by HMRC on telephone services over this period [resulted] in an estimated £4 in extra costs to customers," the committee said.

"HMRC says it now expects average waiting times to fall below five minutes and aims to reduce this still further," the report said. “We will be holding senior officials to account on this target in the months ahead."

Hitting back, HMRC said that this report was an "inaccurate, out-of-date reflection of our phone performance".

"We acknowledge that service levels in the early part of last year were not acceptable and we apologised at the time."

"But the PAC is well aware our phone lines have since fully recovered and we are now offering our best service levels in years. There's never been a more convenient service for our customers."

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