HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Hanging on the Telephone - Chaos and Incompetence

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: 
"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."
An HMRC spokeswoman said:
"During busy periods, there will be times when customers find it more difficult to get through.

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."
The Exchequer secretary, David Gauke (who features on this site regularly) tried to claim that everything was fine:
"HMRC does not have a target time for answering telephone calls.

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)."
The "good news" is that by 2014 everything really will be fine, according to a written Parliamentary answer from Gauke:
"HMRC recognises there are further improvements to be made and aim to achieve 90% of call attempts handled by 2014/15."

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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  1. Is a "Call Attempt" when someone rings HMRC but eventually gives up?

  2. Why is 74% good? Why is 90% good. If I ring a public body or a large company I really, truly expect to be able to speak to someone. If they cannot answer me then I expect to be able to leave my details for a call-back. Barring the telephones having technical difficulties, I expect 100% response.

    If they cannot handle the telephone properly, then give us an e-mail address where we can leave our details and get a call-back at their expense.

  3. I totally agree why arent 100% of calls answered on any given day like any other business worth its salt does.
    Why cant you leave some contact details to get a call or email back?
    Why are you just left in the dark to call and call again until you hit on lucky and actually talk to somebody?
    Its all excuse after excuse. In 2015 everything will be as it should be is bollocks.
    I know people who work in these call centres and they are treated worse than battery chickens and god forbid you get sick - sickness is a crime punishable by bullying and termination of job..genuine or not.
    There simply arent enough people there to answer the phones and the government wants to cut staffing levels even more.
    Its not rocket science to see whats really happening and its a public disgrace.

    1. You claim to know a lot but in my 8 years experience I have seen a culture where staff have sick records as long as my arm, spend an age to sign on, think arriving late is a god given right and have a very poor attitude to call queues. It's all about when they can get their next break. The issue is that staff spend a much higher percentage of time in idle compared to the private sector although I concede that more staff are needed... Just decent ones

  4. I work in the Debt Collection side and happily give my direct line number to anyone who I speak to with regards to my job - this avoids them having to ring the dreaded DMTC`s (Debt Management Telephone Centre).

    The biggest scandal is that people are being forced to file & pay online, but we arent allowed to deal with them by email (I know email may be insecure BUT these people want to talk to us and frankly we should make talking to them as easy as possible).

    1. Give us your number! You do realise your direct dial number may end up on a consumer forums and you could be inundated with calls.

  5. As I have pointed out before on the telephone debate of course it will be fine by 2014 because all the tax credit customers will be being moved over to Jobcentre Plus.

    One worrying thing I noticed today this week should be the busiest week in the Enquiry Centres of the year but the numbers are well well down in fact worryingly down, now this is either because HMRC are doing everything right and customers do not need help or people just cannot be bothered anymore to contact HMRC... maybe the worklists programme is working and maybe just maybe HMRC is starting to turn things around as customer numbers have been well down since August last year but this drop in numbers compared with the last five years is massive.

    1. If you think that RTI and Universal Credits will be up and running fully by 2014 then I have a Bridge in Brooklyn you might like to buy.

  6. I've been on hold for 35 minutes so far at a cost of 10p per minute. still no answer.......

    1. I'm on 40 mins and counting...

  7. The problem is with resources as there's clearly to many calls coming in for the staff employed. One minute you're guffawing at lazy public servants being laid off and the next minute you're moaning because your calls are not answered promptly. I take it from this that you'd like more civil servants? No wait, this could be privatised, set up a company, obtain a huge government subsidy for running it, pay the staff half the wages and run it out of New Delhi with an even worse service - brilliant! Grow up.

  8. shambles of a service ........... i get a letter to say i need to ring these people but after trying for 3 days ond continually on hold for an hour at a time i now give up

  9. I believe I have just set a new record, 1 hour and 12 minutes, and still holding !!!!!!! This is my lunch break, what an experience!

  10. If only it was only the phone service that is shite.
    Are the officers competent at basic book keeping.It seemsthey would rather chase 50p from a small business than millions from the likes of starbuck and other large companies.

  11. Same for me, just blew my lunch break again waiting for a simple enquiry, back to pen and paper then.....

    1. ....which will then be dumped on the pile of 1.5 million bits of post that are rotting by the day !!