Called HMRC recently?

Call queues are becoming a unwelcome feature of communicating with HMRC. In a recent post on the GOV.UK newsfeed a new strategy is emerging. As you would expect, it steers taxpayers towards their online accounts or other information posted online by HMRC. We may be heading for a completely impersonal approach to handle communications between taxpayers and HMRC.

In their post, HMRC said:

“Nobody enjoys having to wait on hold on the phone just to resolve a simple query – and those completing Self-Assessment tax returns no longer need to, with more help and advice than ever before available online.

“But many people, unaware of the extent of online support now out there, are still calling instead, often with questions that could be answered via GOV.UK.

“Releasing details of the top 5 reasons people call the helpline, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is encouraging everyone to check online when seeking help about their tax return, to get a much quicker and easier result.

“HMRC received more than 5.5 million calls to the Self-Assessment helpline last year, with 1.2 million calls in the 8 weeks leading up to the 31 January deadline. Around a third of these calls were routine or simple enquiries.

“The most common calls to the Self-Assessment helpline, which can be checked online are:

  1. Do I need to fill in a tax return?
  2. How do I fill in my online tax return?
  3. How do I check how much tax I owe?
  4. Where’s my Self-Assessment tax refund?
  5. What happens if I can’t pay my tax bill?

“Using HMRC’s online services means customers can access the information they need to resolve all of these questions quickly and easily – day or night – without the need to call HMRC.”

Let’s hope that this drive to push taxpayers towards online facilities does not disenfranchise those who have no access to the internet or who are not tech-savvy. But we may be transitioning towards a society where information – and solutions to problems – can only be solved by searching online data or by interacting with AI systems.