Waiting times on HMRC’s helplines grew by 25% in the first quarter of the year, with the latest figures showing that the Revenue’s performance had worsened even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK.
HMRC’s own figures show that the average call waiting time in the first quarter of 2020 was more than six minutes, a minute-and-a-half longer than in the last three months of 2019.
They also show that just 74% of mail was handled within 15 working days, down from 83% in the previous quarter, and that 27% of callers waited more than 10 minutes for their call to be answered.
Provisional figures – to be confirmed in HMRC’s annual report – show that HMRC did not meet a number of its targets, including:
- Average call waiting time was six minutes 39 seconds, against a target of five minutes and 2018/19 performance of five minutes 14 seconds.
- 30% of callers waited more than 10 minutes, against a target of 15% and a 2018/19 performance of 20%.
- 70% of mail was handled within 15 working days of receipt, against a target of 80% and a 2018/19 performance of 77%.
ICAEW’s Tax Faculty has described the statistics as ‘disappointing’, particularly given they only cover the first week or so of lockdown.
On its website it said:
“HMRC is still operating reduced hours on its helplines and, based on reports from members, we expect that the performance in the current quarter will show a further decline over the last quarter of 2019/20. However, we appreciate that HMRC is in a difficult position given the need to focus on delivering the Covid-19 government support schemes and the fact that it was not initially possible for some of the helplines to be answered by staff working from home.”
The number of calls being made to HMRC continues to fall as it develops its digital services. The total number of call attempts over the year dropped by more than 1m to 41.6m in 2019/20 and the calls attempts in the quarter were 9.8m, down from 11m in the same quarter in 2018/19.