The fact that taxpayers are facing a bill of £126 million a year because of the inability of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officials to answer the phone is totally ludicrous.
Last year a staggering 20 million calls to HMRC’s phone line went unanswered. People who did manage to get through on average had to wait five minutes to speak to someone, with some 6.5 million callers being made to wait an extraordinary ten minutes or more.
The National Audit Office (NAO), which discovered the shocking statistics, also found that HMRC compares unfavourably to the tax offices of other developed countries, finding that HMRC answered its phones slower than any of the other seven agencies it was assessed against. For example, Canada’s Revenue Agency managed to answer 80% of calls in 2 minutes while in the UK just 46% are answered that quickly.
Margaret Hodge, Chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, stated that it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that HMRC uses expensive 0845 numbers to profit while the taxpayer waits. She attacked the call answering targets the organisation has set for itself as ‘far too soft and way below industry standards’, pointing out that HMRC has set itself the dismal target of answering just 58% of calls.
TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: “This NAO report exposes a shameful level of service at HMRC. It’s no wonder people have to call the revenue so often, given that – at 17,000 pages – our tax code is one of the longest and most complicated in the world. It is high time that politicians acted to simplify the tax system and make it far less burdensome.’
As the NAO’s report observes, getting in touch with HMRC isn’t an option, it is something that taxpayers have to do. As such, it is ridiculous that we are being provided such a shoddy service.