Holding the Line: Battling HMRC's Phone System
04th August 2016
It's hard work talking to the taxman even when things are going well. You've got to understand his strange language of Tax Codes and Unique Taxpayer Reference numbers, for one thing. You've also got to know how he thinks to stay in his good books - assuming you can even get him on the phone. Chances are, even that's going to be a challenge.
Getting sense out of the taxman sometimes means talking to a human being - or the nearest HMRC equivalent. There are helplines designed to make this as painless as possible, but budget cuts aren't doing them any favours. With reports floating about of 47-minute average wait times, it's easy to see why so many callers give up trying.
No one's ringing those helplines for a nice little chat, either. Every one of those missed calls is another person with a tax problem who isn't getting the help they need. Out of every 10 people calling for help in 2015-16, 3 of them ended up unanswered.
According to one report, in a single 12-month period, callers spent the equivalent of over 456 years waiting! That's pretty horrifying in itself, and it's hard to imagine things improving any time soon.
We're not trying to bash the taxman here. He's doing a tough job in tougher times, and getting squeezed just like the rest of us. That's not much comfort when you're stuck in a phone queue with a critical tax query, though. Those calls aren't free, either - whether you ever get through or not. It's no wonder HMRC is doing all it can to get people off the phones and onto their website. They've lost literally thousands of people from their phone staff, and they're struggling to keep up.
The thing is, some questions really do take a conversation to solve - as shown by the number of calls still being made. Everyone needs help, advice of information sometimes. Right now, HMRC just isn't in a position to offer it, even when the situation's desperate.
Remember when we found out that millions of people were paying the wrong tax because of a computer glitch? Everyone panicked and customer service pretty much collapsed overnight. The taxman will never deliberately try to cheat you. He will, however, make mistakes from time to time just like we all do. The difference is, if you make a tax mistake it usually only affects yourself. If HMRC mess up, it can hurt anyone - or even everyone! Trimming down the customer support department to save a few pennies is one thing. Letting it fall off a cliff is something else entirely.
So much for the bad news. How about a little something to lighten the mood? To be fair to the taxman, HMRC is doing its best to fix the problem. It's just not yet clear what difference that's going to make to its answer rates or waiting times.
The good news is that you can offload all the hassle, frustration and uncertainty to RIFT. Put us on your team and we'll take care of all your HMRC dealings for you. No more sitting on phone queues, no more struggling to navigate automated menu systems.
From claiming a refund on overpaid taxes to getting help with Self Assessment, calling RIFT is your safest bet. We've been tackling the taxman for our clients since 1999, and we're the UK's experts at it. Get in touch to see how we can help fix your tax problems.
Get in touch any help you need with self assessment tax returns or tax refunds by calling 01233 62864, talking to us on Live Chat or sending us a message on Facebook.