HMRC closes its Self-Assessment helpline for three months

HM Revenue and Customs has closed its Self-Assesment helpline for three months.

The helpline closed last week with just five days’ notice.

The HMRC says it is piloting a new seasonal model for the Self Assessment helpline, to prioritise helping those with urgent queries.

The trial will last for three months and will see self-assessment from the helpline to the department’s digital services, including its online guidance, digital assistant and webchat.

It says the move will free up 350 advisers to take urgent calls on other lines and answer customer correspondence. If focused on urgent calls, it says these advisers will answer around 6,600 each day, ensuring more customers who really need to speak to an adviser can do so.

The vast majority of SA customers use HMRC’s online services, with 97% filing online. The helpline will re-open on September 4th 2023 so customers can receive support in the five months running up to the self-assessment deadline on 31 January 2024.

Angela MacDonald, Deputy CEO and Second Permanent Secretary at HMRC, said: “We continually review our services to see how they can best serve the public and we are taking steps to improve them.

“A seasonal SA helpline will make more of our expert advisers available where they are most needed during the summer months,” she said.

“Our online services, including the HMRC app, are quick and easy to use and have been significantly improved. I urge customers to explore these fully before deciding to wait to speak to us on the phone.”

The HMRC says the helpline receives far fewer calls over the summer, with calls around 50% higher between January and April compared with June to August.

it says around two-thirds of all SA calls can be resolved by customers themselves online while HMRC will increase the advisers available on webchat, the Online Service Helpline and the Extra Support Team Helpline.

The decision to close the helpline has been criticised with This Is Money columnist Heather Roger saying: “When taxpayers have a concern regarding their affairs, or in relation to correspondence they have received, especially if they think it’s wrong, they want to speak to a person, not be fobbed off with a digital chatbot.

“I note HMRC want to transfer advisers to deal with correspondence, which they need to do, as we are waiting for responses to letters that are over 12 months old.

“However, all this will do is frustrate taxpayers and further add to the mountain of correspondence HMRC need to deal with, as customers turn to paper to try and resolve their issue.”