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.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Hanging On The Telephone - LITRG Mystery Shopper

As loyal readers know, the subject of contacting HMRC via the telephone has been discussed on this site on numerous occasions over the years. In the halcyon days of the Inland Revenue, back in 1997/98, a call to them would be answered within 30 seconds 91% of the time. However, that was then, and now is now.

Approximately a year ago, Mike Clasper (the all but invisible chairman of HMRC) promised the Treasury Sub-Committee that he expected to see a “period of steady improvement” in HMRC’s performance in answering the telephone.

Here we are in 2012 and step forward the Low Income Tax Reform Group (LITRG) which, a couple of days ago, decided to test HMRC's helplines by using a "mystery shopper".

On Tuesday 10 April 2012, LITRG made three calls to HMRC helplines using the routes taken by an ordinary PAYE caller, a pensioner and a tax credit claimant. On average the wait was 29 minutes. LITRG note that on a PAYG mobile that could have cost £11.60 per call, which could equate to half a day’s income for a pensioner (my advice here is that you should avoid calling HMRC using a PAYG mobile).

LITRG state:
"No doubt, HMRC will claim that there was pent-up demand over Easter. But a customer-centric organisation (as HMRC claim to be) would add extra resources in anticipation.

HMRC will also say that three calls are not statistically valid. But until they do their own mystery shopping and publish the results, we are quite prepared to consider a half-hour wait as not unusual."
LITRG offer some advice:
"People who cannot get through after a short period of waiting should make a note of when they rang. And if any adverse consequences occur because they were not able to do what HMRC required them to do, they should complain and ask to be compensated."
Good luck with extracting compensation!

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  1. Call centres are the problem. Advisors can get a bonus by keeping their average call times down, to achieve this, some advisors will try to 'fail' callers on security questions. Of course this means the taxpayer has not had their issue resolved and so will call again. If an advisor takes too long on a call (i.e. trying to be "too helpful") they can expect a bollocking. Anonymity is also an issue - HMRC staff cannot assume "ownership" of a case. As soon as the call ends the taxpayer and the problem has gone away. Careless staff thrive on their bonuses and people with a more caring, responsible attitude end up at the GPs surgery with work-related stress. The call centre based system is not fit for purpose, the British Taxpayer deserves better.

  2. Enquiry Centres have free to use phone lines to the Call Centres, which if I recall correctly come through as a priority.

    1. Yes if your enquiry centre is open 5 days a week which only 29 are. Enquiry Centres have speed dials which jump the queue in effect if you are waiting at home to get through there could be 279 enquiry centres telephones all jumping ahead of you in the queue.

      The enquiry centres are under threat like never before we are only allowed to have one desk of appointments now where possible everyone coming in must be interrogated and forced to use the telephone where possible so the other staff left can do work items.

      So let's look at this 72% of telephone calls are being answered while Enquiry Centre staff are being told not to see customers but do worklists as priority. That's your management for you they are still failing the telephone answering target but they have staff who are supposed to see customers doing other things, you could not make it up.

  3. BONUS. Are you serious, WE DO NOT GET ANY BONUS working in an HMRC CC.

    The only bonus we have is home time.

    This is laughable, i've not even had a pay-rise for about 3 or 4 years so to suggest we get a bonus is ridiculous. If I was full time (which my stress levels could not handle in there) my salary would be £18965 and i've nearly 10 years service in. Now thats no-where near the UK average and from this month we've all effectively had a pay cut (thanks to the pensions farce).

    If our calls are too long we get bollocked, thats true.
    I personally have never deliberately failed security on a taxpayer, it only causes a load of abuse down the phone from a pee'd of member of the public and tbh thats not fun, its not worth the hassle. The jobs hard enough without causing more stress.

    Am still rolling laughing at the thought of us getting a bonus! Crazy.

    1. Yes I must admit I was a tad "doubtful" that the frontline call centre staff got a bonus. Could it be that the "team managers" get one?

    2. there are no bonuses for "team managers" either. There are no bonuses for ordinary workers.

  4. Surely the best approach is to communicate by post using a courier service demanding of a reciept then requesting a response to a Box number in order to give HMRC some more work to clog up its "system" and them hopefully get a wtitten response which might be correct in law rather than p****** around on the telephone and wasting time and money.

    1. You taking the proverbial? Letters?
      I sent numerous letters recorded delivery to HMRC and still haven't had a reply, 2 years later!
      Letters are worse than tel calls... but at least it is in writing.
      What I would like to see is a copy of the recorded telephone conversations!
      Or at least perhaps PAC might ask for some?

  5. I have been in in Inland Revenue/HMRC now for 20 + years, and ONCE got a bonus of £150 BEFORE TAX, that was my incentive not to try again.
    I have been the same grade all this time, and been top of the AO payscale for 20 years, minimal pay rises for me over the last few years (but I should be grateful I got anything).
    And as for bonuses ?? HO (if your lucky !) and above only.

  6. There is a bonus for call centre staff consistently keeping average call handling times below a certain time, only achievable by irresponsible advisors. This link explains more:

    For "Good Performance" read "Short Call Handling Times".

    1. Too simplistic. 15% may get a 'bonus' of 2% of their annual salary. To get that in a call centre you will have to do things that are outside your normal duties (e.g. not answering calls), so the people getting those 'top' bonuses are the ones not doing the work you think they are doing.

      That bonus for an AO (the person you speak to over the phone) is a maximum of 2% of 19,724 (top rate national - no call centre in london - and most call centre staff are not on their maximum payscale).

      That is an annual payment of 394 before tax. This is subject to both income tax and national insurance and suddenly you have ~280 left.

      This is not enough money to be called a 'bonus'.

    2. Beware of the link shown above. It relates to performance bonuses potentially payable to Grade 7 Inspectors. It then goes on to suggest that HMRC employees will bust a gut to get a bonus. In reality, the bonuses payable to most staff are so derisory that no-one can be arsed. When I worked for the bastards, my team (mostly of HO grades with some clerical support) was allocated one "top" marking. This went not to the person who had brought in the most yield but to one or other keener who had attended loads of training courses, sometimes the same one twice, on the basis that it beat working.

  7. The long waiting times coincide with my experience. The agents' dedicated line isn't too bad but any of the other helplines - 20-30 minutes is the norm.
    Also one gets wrong information. Often I am able to spot that the person doesn't really understand what I am asking but for a normal member of the public.... no chance.

    Add calls to the Accounts Office that are not answered even though the contact centre has given you four numbers to try.

    I have been mysteriously cut off and also experienced the more 'difficult' security checks that you cannot pass. I had no idea they were limited as to the amount of time spent on the phone.

    I have spoken to many HMRC staff who are openly unhappy about their job and sympathise with me on the phone and complain about their working conditions. There is NO satisfaction in this job as you are not allowed to 'own' a problem and work it through to the end. I hope Lin Homer's office reads this column!

  8. Dear rentawitch. You hit the nail on the head in your penultimate sentence! If staff own a problem and are responsible for any follow up, they have the incentive to solve it properly and will also learn for the future. This ownership disappeared with the abolition of set allocations of taxpayers to each Reveneue Officer/Team and the advent of "lean", "pacesetter" and also time and number targets. Can't see it ever coming back.

    1. Bonus? Bonus? Unless you are talking about the members of staff who were given (and to their shame accepted) £20 'simply thanks' shopping vouchers for crossing the picket line? No bonuses for staff at the coalface!

    2. OMG is that true, I hadn't heard that that had happened in my CC!

  9. Think this happened on our office coz the old dear in charge was clueless. The new manager who took her job is way better and gives shopping vouchers if u do s a decent job

  10. I have rung HMRC 3 different times today.
    1 = 35 mins - gave up.
    2 = 28 mins - gave up
    3 = 40 mins - gave up
    So my mini survey proves that the 29 minute average time is clearly wrong ... or maybe just getting worse !
    Average time for me was 34 mins - couldnt even get through to complain .... and they dont do e-mails. So much for a transparent government !!

  11. Call the overseas number (all hmrc numbers have a different number for non UK callers), say you are on holiday on Ireland/France/wherever, you will be connected in seconds

  12. Mystery shopping is indeed useful in many fields – even the HMRC! Thanks for posting about this in your blog.