Hanging On The Telephone

HMRC recently quickly reversed a decision to close its self-assessment telephone helpline for half of the year (between April and September), saying that, taxpayers would have to use online services instead. While the waiting times have been lengthy to answer calls, there was an outcry when it was announced that the helpline would be partly shutting.

According to the BBC, Tina McKenzie, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “While online services are a key part of the communications mix for the tax authority, sometimes there’s just no substitute for a real human on the end of a phone line who can listen, engage and help untangle issues.”

So, within 24 hours, HMRC relented and explained that its helpline would remain open all year round.

In the Commons, shadow Treasury Minister, James Murray, described the move as a ‘u-turn of extraordinary speed and indignity’.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that, as an official agent, we at Lewis & Co have a dedicated line into HMRC where we can ask the organisation questions on behalf of our clients. This can save you having to hang on the telephone yourself and we do find that our calls get answered fairly promptly. Very often though, we can answer questions which our clients might have, without having to contact HMRC in the first place.

We would also add that the web chat service that HMRC provides – if you don’t fancy hanging on the telephone – is actually pretty useful. It was introduced during the pandemic and, rather than a chat bot, offers an actual person on the other end, ready to answer your queries.

This reverse of a decision within 24 hours by HMRC follows a similar u-turn just a month earlier, when the organisation announced a decision to treat all double cab pick-ups as cars, rather than vans, from 1 July 2024. The decision was withdrawn quickly after lobbying from representatives from various industries, such as the farming, construction and the motor sector.

From our point of view, the original announcement saw us make a few hasty phone calls to clients, who we knew had new double cab pick-ups on order. We are sure it also resulted in a few fraught hours for those in the motor trade involved in selling such vehicles, taking phone calls from customers asking for their purchases to be put on hold.

If you’ve got any questions concerning tax or getting in touch with HMRC, call us on: 01892 513515.