HMRC, the UK’s tax authority, has announced the temporary closure of its self-assessment phone helpline for a period of three months starting from June 12, 2023.

During this trial period, individuals with self-assessment queries are encouraged to utilise HMRC’s digital services, including online guidance, digital assistants, and webchat for assistance. The decision to close the helpline has sparked criticism, with some experts questioning the timing and impact on taxpayers.

In response, HMRC defended its decision, stating that the temporary closure was part of a trial seasonal model. The tax authority indicated that the self-assessment helpline receives fewer calls during the summer, and approximately two-thirds of these calls can be effectively resolved through online channels.

By directing self-assessment queries to digital services, HMRC aims to free up 350 advisers to handle urgent calls on other helplines and address customer queries promptly.

What are the benefits of this?

Angela MacDonald, Deputy Chief Executive and Second Permanent Secretary at HMRC, emphasized the importance of continuously improving services to better serve the public. She urged customers to explore HMRC’s online offerings, including the HMRC app, which have undergone significant improvements to ensure a quick and user-friendly experience.

MacDonald encouraged individuals to exhaust these digital resources before considering waiting to speak with HMRC over the phone.

What are the repercussions?

However, the closure of yet another critical phone helpline by HMRC has left many business owners and accountants dissatisfied. In recent months, accessing HMRC through phone helplines has proven challenging, as evidenced by the previous closure of the VAT registration helpline, which resulted in significant delays for business owners awaiting responses from the tax authority.

As HMRC proceeds with its trial of redirecting self-assessment queries to digital platforms, the effectiveness and impact of this approach will be closely observed. The temporary closure of the self-assessment helpline raises concerns about accessibility and the level of support available to taxpayers who prefer or require direct communication with HMRC.

Seb Maley, CEO of Qdos, commented:

“This does nothing more than highlight chaos at the tax office. HMRC can dress it up however its wants, but closing the phone lines for self-employed taxpayers is only going to result in problems.

“We’re in a cost of living crisis, the self-employed are being hit with tax rise after tax rise and instead of increasing the support available, HMRC reduces it.

“Let’s not forget that as recently as April, HMRC was reminding self-employed workers to file and pay their upcoming tax bill. Two months later and millions of people being asked to do this will struggle to talk with a person at HMRC about their tax affairs. It’s completely illogical.”

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.