When it comes to tax matters, HMRC has always been our go-to source for help. But what happens when their phone helpline is temporarily closed? With a recent shift towards a digital platform, it seems the landscape of communication with HMRC is changing. Here’s what you need to know.

The Digital Move and Phone Line Closure

From 12 June to 4 September 2023, HMRC is running a trial, redirecting Self Assessment (SA) queries from their phone helpline to digital platforms. The reasoning? It’s part of the broader ‘Making Tax Digital’ initiative, aiming for a comprehensive digital tax system. By nudging ‘customers’ towards online resources, HMRC hopes to streamline tax administration, making it more efficient and user-friendly. They’re targeting a 30% drop in contact through phone and post by 2025, using trials like this to adjust staffing needs throughout the tax year.

So, why this shift? The 2022/23 annual performance report revealed some challenges for HMRC. Falling short on customer service measures and phone response rates, the organisation is keen to try a different approach.

The Summer Effect on HMRC Phone Calls

Closing the SA phone lines during the summer releases 350 advisers to focus on other urgent tax areas, such as corporation tax and NIC. Historically, the SA helpline witnesses a call drop of about 50% during summer months compared to the peak period between January and April. HMRC argues that most of its customers, (97% to be precise), already use online services. Hence, the current move might even be more convenient for the majority.

Exploring Online Assistance

It appears the answer to many queries can be found online. Here’s what’s on offer:

  •  Digital Assistant: Before jumping on a chat, you can get answers from HMRC’s digital assistant. If it doesn’t have your solution, it will point you towards a webchat adviser.
  • HMRC App: A handy tool for taxpayers, the HMRC app lets you check your UTR number, tax code, NIC number, and even claim a tax refund. You can also monitor the status of forms and letters dispatched to HMRC. Check it out here.
  • Online Forums: If you’re searching for a more interactive experience, HMRC’s online forums are worth a look. They cover a variety of topics, from starting a business to VAT issues. Plus, HMRC’s technical team sometimes jumps in with answers. Just remember, it’s not a place for discussing individual tax situations. Join the conversation here.
An Important Perspective

While the shift towards a digital-first approach may be a response to HMRC’s efficiency objectives and recent performance measures, it’s essential to keep the broader picture in mind. As outlined in the HMRC policy paper ‘Overview of Making Tax Digital’, the end goal is to provide a system that is “more effective, efficient, and easier for taxpayers.”

The world of tax is always evolving. As HMRC trials this new method of communication, we, the taxpayers, can adapt by making the most of the digital resources at our fingertips. However, it’s always good practice to keep up-to-date with the latest changes, ensuring you’re well-prepared and informed.


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