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 cellphone 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 clients use HMRC’s on-line companies, with 97% submitting on-line, the tax authority stated.

HMRC has confronted important strain to enhance service ranges in latest months, having downsized its customer support workforce from 25,500 to 19,500 up to now 5 years as a result of its push in direction of digitalisation.

However the contemporary initiative, in response to the income physique, will liberate 350 advisers to reply round 6,600 “pressing” self-assessment calls every day.

“A seasonal helpline will make extra of our knowledgeable advisers accessible the place they’re most wanted throughout the summer season months,” stated 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 clients to discover these totally earlier than deciding to attend to talk to us on the cellphone.”

However in response to 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 accessible, HMRC reduces it.

“HMRC can gown it up nonetheless its needs, however closing the cellphone strains for self-employed taxpayers is just going to end in issues.”

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

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

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

However Etherington argues {that a} summer season closure is prone to worsen the already intensive ready instances at the start 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 could possibly be a short-sighted transfer. HMRC already struggles to cope with the extent of cellphone 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 taking a look at all of the choices to sort out the present poor efficiency”, praising the tax authority for being “versatile and adaptable”

Nevertheless, 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 effectively selecting the bottom demand level to power individuals onto a platform which many aren’t snug with, however not if you happen to’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 must be specializing in is the proportion of queries settled in a single interplay, this isn’t at present adequate and the concern is that this will likely worsen.”

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