Tuesday 18 December 2012

Taxpayers Pay £33M To Phone HMRC

As loyal readers know the subject of phoning HMRC is often discussed on this site, as is the cost to the taxpayer of hanging on the phone.

Kudos to the National Audit Office (NAO) for attempting to estimate how much this actually costs the taxpayer.

Their estimate?


The NAO estimates that a total of £33M was incurred in call charges by members of the public waiting in phone queues during 2011/12, part of the reason being that most of HMRC’s numbers have the high-charge 0845 prefix (as has been noted many times before on this site).

The NAO have today published a report, Customer Service Performance, which notes that HMRC received 79M calls and answered 74% of them in 2011/12, exceeding a provisional target of 58%. However, as the NAO state, HMRC doesn't exactly have high aspirations:
"HMRC’s service targets are lower and cover fewer areas than those of other organisations."
However, despite these low aspirations, the service level was unsatisfactory; as can be seen from the headline figure above approximately 20M calls went unanswered. Those who did manage to get through had to wait on average 282 seconds before being put through to an adviser.

Oh and by the way, in addition to the taxpayer having to spend £33M on phone bills, taxpayers are also estimated to have wasted £103M of their own time hanging on the telephone waiting for HMRC to answer the phone.

As the report succinctly puts it (annoyingly the "C" word is used):
"HM Revenue & Customs’ ‘customers’ (taxpayers and claimants) do not have a choice about whether they interact with HMRC. This obliges HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that customers get a good service. Good service also makes economic sense, as poor service imposes costs on HMRC and its customers."
The report concludes:
"HMRC’s customer service arrangements still represent poor value for money for customers."
Special note should be taken of the following:
"If it enters into contracts where service providers get a share of call revenues, it should insist on open-book accounting and transparent arrangements for sharing benefits."
Let's see how that goes then!

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. The NAO has been hoodwinked yet again, who supplies the data where the analysis starts, it can only be HMRC as they are at the initial point of contact and its their number.

    Also, it is not as if this is the first time that this has flashed up on the NAO screens or to HMG.

    If you don't join the dots you miss the full picture and after all the huffing and puffing not a lot happens.

    Watch out for HMRC diverting funds aimed at tax evasion/avoidance to a sticking plaster approach to anwering the phone.

    Can't quite get as bad as the system operating some years ago where the answer phone on the hotline referred you to another number where an answer phone then referred you to the original number. I know because I tried it after a complaint from a police officer because a member of the public had phoned them in exasperation!
    Management didnt give a toss then and still dont.

    BTW you can put as many people on the phones as you like and get a 100% answer rate but if they dont know what they are doing you might as well have meercats on the end of the phone.

    1. Do you have a source of data that gives a different/more accurate picture?

    2. Nope, just the fact that they tell lies most of the time and when they are not lying they sure as hell ain't telling the truth.

    3. So, you're just another liar then ?

      As you mouth breathers like to say,with a flourish.......

      I rest my case............

    4. Not a liar, just speaking from experience, if the poacher looks after the flock you know what to expect with a self-regulating organisation run by those who even lie to Parliament.(FACT)
      Shills should remain under their stones.

    5. Shill schmill...........You have... No evidence. Just opinion. But you don't like differing opinions, do you. But feel free to present yours as facts.

      Oh, and when confronted, ask for anyone with a different pov to yours to be banned.

  2. Unlike HMRC the IRS is able to use 800 numbers (free to callers) in all its dealings with taxpayers. Also the IRS doesn't patronise taxpayers by calling them "customers".

    Your blog is wrongly titled: it should be "HMRC is worse than shite".

  3. @Anonymous:

    "Watch out for HMRC diverting funds aimed at tax evasion/avoidance to a sticking plaster approach to anwering the phone."

    Excellent. As someone who advises clients on avoidance I look forward to a further deterioration in HMRC investigated prowess.

    Justice deferred is justice denied! Excellent.

  4. I tried to phone HMRC to complain about this outrageous situation but was unable to get a reply.

  5. No queues at anytime today on Tax Credits, no queue that I saw on PAYE nor ChB ... been the same consistently for a few months (apart from slight queues of <1min) Saturday afternoon and Monday evenings.
    I spoke to a lady who had called back 5 times today and who despite being told each time what she needed to report a change still had not obtained it. Was it HMRC's fault that she ignored all our advice and redialled umpteen times? (I'm aware it's a single case and I no way use it to reflect HMRC as a whole).

    1. Believe me when RTI and UC comes in next year those phone lines are going to light up like Christmas trees.

  6. So people moan about having to pay an 0845 number rather than a 0300 numbers which will cost every taxpayer in this country. I know what I'd prefer.....

    1. Sorry, but I'm calling bullshit on that.

      An organization as large as HMRC can negotiate contracts with its phone provider so that any cost is minimal or zero.

      Instead, we end up with those often least able to deal with the tax system (pensioners and the terminally confused) bearing the cost.

  7. Can't these ultra modern digital computer controlled multi-location call centre systems handle a basic rate phone call from a basic subscribers phone or is there an amendment to a finance act that requires millions of taxpayers money to be paid to 3rd party providers?

  8. WTF

    Page 8 of the report

    "All customers who hang up during the automated message are counted as being answered."