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Around a third of calls made to HMRC helplines are cut off because operators are too busy, according to recent research. As self assessment customers prepare their tax returns before the 31st January deadline, HMRC has promised to improve the service.

The study was conducted by Which?, the consumer group. Of 100 calls sampled, only 71 were answered, with the other 29 receiving an automated message informing the caller that the service was ‘very busy’. Even those callers who got through to the helpline service experienced difficulties, with an average waiting time of 18 minutes and the longest being 41 minutes.

Voice recognition is used to direct callers to the correct department, and even this system experienced difficulty. More complex queries seemed to cause the most problems, with the system not recognising certain words and phrases.

According to HMRC, new technology will be used to improve the system, as the organisation admits that the current service “isn’t good enough”. Richard Lloyd, the executive director of Which?, said that the group wanted to see huge improvements in the helpline service, especially as this is the run-up to the self assessment deadline.

A HMRC spokesperson said:

“[We receive] over 40 million calls a year but we know that some of our customers can struggle to get through on our helplines at very busy times. This isn’t good enough, and we are working hard to improve the range of services we provide.”

How to avoid a late filing penalty

Although you have a full year to complete your self assessment tax return, most people still leave it until the very last minute to complete and file the document. Don’t leave it until later, especially if you have a query and need to contact HMRC. The helpline will be far busier during the month before the deadline, as people will be more likely to call HMRC for advice at this point.

Go against the trend and try calling early in the morning, rather than leaving it until you finish work.

If you will be filing a tax return for the first time, register with HMRC early so you receive your password and activation code within plenty of time.

Remember, if you file your return late and receive £100 penalty, you don’t have plenty of time to submit your tax return, as you will receive further penalties if you don’t submit your form immediately.

If you have had experience of calling the HMRC helpline, please let us know how you fared by leaving a comment below.

About The Author

Karl Bilby

We work very closely with our expert accountants to bring you the latest factually correct tax and accounting news. We also enjoy writing about small business news that we hope you find useful!

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