HMRC funding announced for phone line support

14 May 2024

In March earlier this year, we had the hokey cokey of HMRC announcing the closure of some of its helplines and then quickly reversing the decision the next day. Whilst that might have proved an embarrassing exercise for those involved, including ministers who were apparently informed of the decision in advance, a positive outcome has prevailed for both HMRC and taxpayers alike. 

The government has announced that it is providing HMRC with £51m in additional funding to bring its phone line service levels up to the target level of 85% of calls being answered. 

The challenge now is how those funds are used and it is likely that it will be some time before performance levels shift materially. It is not just a question of getting bodies into the building but also how they are trained and supported to deal with taxpayer queries. 

A previous freedom of information request obtained by RSM UK last year revealed that HMRC staff can receive as little as two weeks tax training before being put on the customer service phone lines with the public and up to a maximum of 10 weeks depending on the complexity of the work they are likely to be involved in. 

Whilst it is right that taxpayers are encouraged to use digital services for straightforward queries, unfortunately we do not have a straightforward tax system. It was inevitable that demand for the phone lines would remain high and ultimately put more pressure on HMRC staff at peak times of year. This move should help ensure there isn’t such a bottleneck of pressure and will hopefully help taxpayers get their affairs right first time, minimising loss of tax receipts through errors and mistakes.