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 strains 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 companies, which embrace its on-line steering, digital assistant and webchat.

The overwhelming majority of self-assessment prospects use HMRC’s on-line companies, with 97% submitting on-line, the tax authority stated.

HMRC has confronted vital strain to enhance service ranges in current months, having downsized its customer support workforce from 25,500 to 19,500 up to now 5 years on account of its push in direction of digitalisation.

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

“A seasonal helpline will make extra of our knowledgeable advisers out there the place they’re most wanted throughout the summer time months,” stated Angela MacDonald, deputy CEO and second everlasting secretary at HMRC.

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

However in accordance 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 value of residing disaster, the self-employed are being hit with tax rise after tax rise and as an alternative of accelerating the assist out there, HMRC reduces it.

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

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

In equally important style, Chris Etherington, non-public shopper tax accomplice at RSM UK argues that the Summer season pilot scheme might pile undue strain onto the telephone strains once they reopen in September.

Based on HMRC, the self-assessment helpline receives far fewer calls over the Summer season, with calls round 50% greater 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 occasions at first and finish of the yr and trigger some taxpayers to face a “bleak winter”.

“The closure might come as an unwelcome shock to many taxpayers and may very well be a short-sighted transfer. HMRC already struggles to cope with the extent of telephone calls that come by 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 deal with the present poor efficiency”, praising the tax authority for being “versatile and adaptable”

Nonetheless, he goes on to echo Etherington’s views, stating the “stress” 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 pressure individuals onto a platform which many aren’t snug with, however not in case you’re going to attempt to enhance demand by encouraging early submitting on the identical time.

“HMRC will be unable to successfully measure the change in behaviour, as the choice has been eliminated. What HMRC must be specializing in is the proportion of queries settled in a single interplay, this isn’t at the moment adequate and the worry is that this will likely worsen.”

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