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Taxpayers spend total of 800 years waiting to speak to HMRC

UK taxpayers spent the equivalent of 800 years on hold to HMRC in 2022/23, according to a report published by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The report found that funding pressures, job cuts and a push to reduce costs by encouraging people to manage their tax affairs online had all led to a poor call-handling performance by HMRC.

The average time spent waiting on the phone to speak to an adviser in the 11 months to February 2024 was almost 23 minutes – well above the five minutes recorded in 2018/19.

Altogether taxpayers spent 7 million hours, or 798 years, on hold to HMRC in 2022/23, according to the report.

Customer service is in a ‘declining spiral’ at HMRC, which had not met its goals for responding to taxpayer correspondence or telephone calls for several years, the NAO added.

The government has recently announced an extra £51 million in funding to help HMRC improve its telephone helplines.

Gareth Davies, Head of the NAO, said:

‘HMRC’s telephone and correspondence services have been below its target service levels for too long.

‘While many of its digital services work well, they have not made enough of a difference to customers, some of whom have been caught in a declining spiral of service pressures and cuts. HMRC has also not achieved planned efficiencies.

‘HMRC must allow more time for these services to bed in and understand the difference they make before adjusting staffing levels.’

NAO website

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