HMRC to close self-assessment helpline for three months

HMRC has introduced that it’ll pilot a brand new ‘seasonal mannequin’ for its self-assessment helpline in an try to alleviate strain on its telephone traces and prioritise pressing queries.

The initiative, set to run for 3 months from twelfth June 2023, will experiment with directing self-assessment queries from the helpline to HMRC’s digital providers, which embody its on-line steerage, digital assistant and webchat.

The overwhelming majority of self-assessment clients use HMRC’s on-line providers, with 97% submitting on-line, the tax authority mentioned.

HMRC has confronted important strain to enhance service ranges in current months, having downsized its customer support workforce from 25,500 to 19,500 prior to now 5 years resulting from its push in the direction of digitalisation.

However the recent initiative, in line with the income physique, will unlock 350 advisers to reply round 6,600 “pressing” self-assessment calls every day.

“A seasonal helpline will make extra of our professional advisers accessible the place they’re most wanted through the summer time months,” mentioned Angela MacDonald, deputy CEO and second everlasting secretary at HMRC.

“Our on-line providers, together with the HMRC app, are fast and straightforward to make use of and have been considerably improved. I urge clients to discover these absolutely earlier than deciding to attend to talk to us on the telephone.”

However in line with Seb Maley, CEO at IR35 consultancy agency Qdos, the timing of the brand new pilot scheme is inappropriate and merely “highlights chaos” on the tax workplace.

“We’re in a price of residing disaster, the self-employed are being hit with tax rise after tax rise and as an alternative of accelerating the assist accessible, HMRC reduces it.

“HMRC can gown it up nevertheless its desires, however closing the telephone traces for self-employed taxpayers is barely going to lead to issues.”

Maley additionally argues that the transfer runs counter to HMRC pleas earlier this 12 months for self-employed staff to file and pay their tax payments, calling the plans “illogical”.

In equally vital vogue, Chris Etherington, personal shopper tax accomplice at RSM UK argues that the Summer time pilot scheme might pile undue strain onto the telephone traces after they reopen in September.

Based on HMRC, the self-assessment helpline receives far fewer calls over the Summer time, with calls round 50% increased between January and April in contrast with June to August.

However Etherington argues {that a} summer time closure is more likely to worsen the already in depth ready instances initially and finish of the 12 months and trigger some taxpayers to face a “bleak winter”.

“The closure might come as an unwelcome shock to many taxpayers and might be a short-sighted transfer. HMRC already struggles to take care of the extent of telephone calls that come by means of within the winter forward of the 31 January deadline, and this might make the issue worse.”

Taking a extra optimistic stance, Glenn Collins, ACCA UK’s head of technical and strategic engagement, says he’s “happy HMRC is all of the choices to sort out the present poor efficiency”, praising the tax authority for being “versatile and adaptable”

Nonetheless, he goes on to echo Etherington’s views, declaring the “pressure” between HMRC urging taxpayers to file their returns early while closing one of many key mechanisms for this.

“It’s all very nicely choosing the bottom demand level to drive folks onto a platform which many aren’t comfy with, however not if you happen to’re going to attempt to enhance demand by encouraging early submitting on the identical time.

“HMRC won’t be able to successfully measure the change in behaviour, as the choice has been eliminated. What HMRC ought to be specializing in is the proportion of queries settled in a single interplay, this isn’t presently ok and the concern is that this may increasingly worsen.”

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