01 December 2022
Following recent issues at HMRC, with phone and web services going down temporarily due to technical issues, HMRC has issued an update to agents that even if they are able to get through to them on the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL), their self-assessment queries relating to clients may not be answered.
Only ‘complex’ self-assessment queries will be answered, but the guidance is vague. Examples of non-complex queries given include PAYE queries in relation to progress-chasing, queries about general tax information and employment histories. It was stated that this was to ensure that support could be given to those completing self-assessment returns.
While this support is of course welcomed for ‘complex’ queries, the alternative for anything else is for agents to use HMRC’s digital channels, or contact the normal customer helpline. Anyone who has ever rung the general customer helpline will likely share the frustrating experience of waiting for up to an hour for your call to be answered, only for the line to disconnect. HMRC’s digital channels are not always sufficient either. For example, where taxpayers have been waiting significant periods for repayments, there is no digital alternative to calling HMRC to chase.
Finally, how does HMRC decide what is a ‘complex’ query? If an agent believes that a query in relation to a 2021/22 return is complex enough, rings the agent helpline and has to wait a significant amount of time, could they then be told the query is not complex enough, and instead of a simple answer being provided by the adviser they must ring the general helpline?
This does not feel like a supportive approach, especially in a period when agents are under significant pressure to help clients meet their Self-Assessment deadlines. It’s likely to result in unnecessary additional professional fees for taxpayers engaging the services of an accountant or tax adviser. It will also simply shift the pressure onto the more general web and phone services, and is likely to result in additional delays for all taxpayers seeking answers to their queries.