As loyal readers know, despite the "best efforts" of Pacesetter, it can sometimes be a "tad problematic" getting through to HMRC on the phone.
Well now it seems that HMRC's political masters are finally getting that point as well. Shadow Treasury minister Owen Smith obtained figures on HMRC call waiting times (by tabling parliamentary questions), which he said showed "chaos and incompetence" in the system.
Although HMRC's helpline is automatically answered within a few rings, callers are then given a range of options and often spend a considerable time on hold. The waiting time now is so long that one in four people apparently hangs up before being connected to an adviser.
The figures show that taxpayers now have to wait an average of more than four minutes to speak to human being in HMRC, compared to one minute and 31 seconds in 2010. In the run up to the end of the tax filing deadline in January, the average wait increases to more than five minutes.
MPs are now getting jittery about this well known failure, because taxpayers (ie the voters) are contacting them about the problem.
The Telegraph quotes Owen Smith:
An HMRC spokeswoman said:"With average call waiting times almost trebling in the last two years, this is yet more evidence of chaos and incompetence in government.Families with children are facing massive cuts to tax credits and are set to lose an average of £511 a year as a result of the unfair policies of this out of touch Tory-led Government. So it's outrageous that they are waiting longer and often struggling to get through for much needed information and advice.
These costly delays are also unacceptable for families, pensioners and businesses trying to give HMRC information to ensure they are paying the right amount of tax or getting the correct level of tax credits. With the economy now back in recession because of David Cameron and George Osborne's economic mistakes and complicated changes to child benefit just a few months away, ministers urgently need to get a grip."
"During busy periods, there will be times when customers find it more difficult to get through.The Exchequer secretary, David Gauke (who features on this site regularly) tried to claim that everything was fine:
We are working hard to improve contact centre service levels and have made good progress. We are managing busy periods better by deploying extra people to deal with short-term increases in demand."
"HMRC does not have a target time for answering telephone calls.The "good news" is that by 2014 everything really will be fine, according to a written Parliamentary answer from Gauke:
HMRC uses a variety of measures to assess the accessibility of telephone services, which include the percentage of call attempts handled by its contact centres.
In 2011/12, HMRC has significantly improved the number of call attempts handled to 74% (compared to the 48% in the previous year)."
"HMRC recognises there are further improvements to be made and aim to achieve 90% of call attempts handled by 2014/15."Snort!
Maybe "Auto-Wrap-Up" (if it existed) would be a good idea then?;)
Folks the only way to push for an improvement is to ensure that your MPs know exactly what is going on and going wrong; keep the pressure up on them, otherwise nothing will get done!
Tax does have to be taxing.
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