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 stress 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 steerage, 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 mentioned.

HMRC has confronted important stress 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 keeping 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 obtainable 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 companies, together with the HMRC app, are fast and straightforward to make use of and have been considerably improved. I urge prospects to discover these absolutely earlier than deciding to attend to talk to us on the telephone.”

However in keeping 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 obtainable, HMRC reduces it.

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

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

In equally essential style, Chris Etherington, non-public consumer tax companion at RSM UK argues that the Summer time pilot scheme might pile undue stress onto the telephone strains after they reopen in September.

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

However Etherington argues {that a} summer time closure is prone to worsen the already intensive ready occasions in the beginning 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 could possibly be a short-sighted transfer. HMRC already struggles to take care of the extent of telephone calls that come via 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 “stress” between HMRC urging taxpayers to file their returns early while closing one of many key mechanisms for this.

“It’s all very effectively selecting the bottom demand level to drive folks onto a platform which many aren’t comfy with, however not should you’re going to attempt to improve 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 ought to be specializing in is the proportion of queries settled in a single interplay, this isn’t at present ok and the concern is that this may increasingly worsen.”

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