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Where Taxpayers and Advisers Meet

HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Joined:Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm
Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby etf » Tue Sep 07, 2021 9:12 am

Just gleaned information confirming that the tax office in Cardiff has not processed any paper self-assessment tax returns submitted for the 2020/21 tax year and are unlikely to do so until later this month at the earliest because of man/woman power issues (April, May, June, July and August). Does HMRC have a plan to catch up/could Taxationweb write an article at least highlighting that there are issues to be considered here?

As an update to my post above this district has now processed tax returns submitted in April and June so it appears a recovery plan is working well and much quicker than originally forecast (perhaps the power of posting problems on Taxationweb). I've received recent exemplary service from Nigel in that office who took ownership of my issues and dealt with them speedily.

Joined:Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm

Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby etf » Mon Nov 29, 2021 4:57 pm

Well it looks as though I went too early when highlighting a potential 7 1/2 month delay in my earlier post. I've just chased a letter sent to HMRC PT Operations on 8 March 2021 and they are currently working to a 259 calendar day timescale. In metric units that means they are currently answering post received in December 2020 and so it appears I'll have to wait another 3 months for a reply. Can anyone beat an 8 1/2 month delay?

In just over a week it will 9 months since I submitted a letter to HMRC (see above post). Assuming HMRC deal with post in the order it is received (never a given) that means they have 9 months post still on hand. Can anyone beat that timescale? I hope not!

Joined:Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm

Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby etf » Sat Dec 18, 2021 8:57 am

All letters sent to HMRC in March have now received a reply :roll:

Joined:Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm

Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby etf » Fri Feb 04, 2022 2:51 pm

Jim Harra's 'Walter Mitty' summary of HMRC's customer service performance is copied below. What planet does he come from?....since when have 9 month long post delays equalled decent service?....and don't get me started on chat bots. I think Harra and the MPs asking the questions would benefit from a month long secondment at the coal face to fully appreciate the real world. If they dropped all the time and resouces they are throwing at MTD (aka lets forget about tax revenue and just issue gazzillions of late filing penalties aka NRCGT revisited) and got staff answering phones/post performance levels might actually improve.

Customer service “back to normal”
The agency is increasing its compliance numbers, although it takes on average 18 months to fully train up an inspector, and it said the full benefit would not become apparent for at least two years.

It also said it will continue to nudge people away from phone-calls and letters when trying to contact the agency, instead directing them towards the HMRC website and chat bots.

Despite constant criticism of the agency’s customer service from the industry throughout the pandemic, as highlighted frequently by the AccountingWEB community, HMRC bosses said normal service has resumed.

“We are on track to deliver pre-pandemic levels of service,” said Angela MacDonald, deputy chief executive and second permanent secretary, HMRC. “Our aim is to get an on-target position, with about two million items. It sounds enormous, but we get about 1.8m pieces of post every month.”

MacDonald admitted that HMRC’s online guides were in need of improvement, and said it was often a case that if a question isn’t phrased exactly right, it will not be answered.

“We’ve invested in more innovative technology to find out what you want to know, and the artificial assistant will offer you the guidance back,” she said. “We’re at the early stages of that bot-type process.”

Harra repeated a statement he had made earlier in the year that HMRC’s “not resourced to give brilliant service, but decent customer service.”

“We have call handling up to 85%, so one in five people has to call back as their call isn’t picked up the first time. 100% would be a brilliant service, I do not have the resources to do that.

“From our customer scores we are getting a high level of satisfaction, particularly with the digital services. I'm not funded to be on a track to deliver a brilliant service.”

Despite its apparent success with customers, HMRC has the lowest staff engagement in Whitehall and still suffers from turnover. Harra said morale had improved under his watch, but accepted that current engagement levels were not good enough.

And I haven't forgotten the telephone number in their guidance that nobody answered and which they took months to correct even when they realised their guide was out of date.

Joined:Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm

Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby etf » Fri Feb 04, 2022 2:58 pm z...unlike the number of zzzzzzs you can take waiting for HMRC to answer your call.

Joined:Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:01 pm

Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby robbob » Fri Feb 04, 2022 3:18 pm

Navy and Airforce !!!! - oopo and dads army too

Joined:Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm

Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby etf » Fri Feb 04, 2022 3:54 pm

You know the Department is in trouble when Captain Mainwaring is seen as an upgrade on the current incumbent. :D "Don't tell him Pike"

Joined:Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm

Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby etf » Mon Feb 14, 2022 1:37 pm

43% of post responded to in 15 days......and yet I've been quoted up to 9 months for post to be dealt with. These statistics do not match my own experience. I wish MPs would read Taxationweb like certain Judges and raise real life problems with HMRC i.e. why can you deal with 43% of the post in 15 days but leave others to wait 9 months for a reply.

Customer service
Performance in answering calls and responding to post in 2020–21 was well below the levels in each of the three previous years.

By the fourth quarter of 2020–21, the average time callers spent queuing to speak to an adviser in HMRC was over 15 minutes (compared to less than 5 minutes in 2017–18), and just 43% of post was responded to in 15 days (81% in 2017–18).

The reasons were predictable, if dispiriting. HMRC had diverted 5,000 customer service staff to work on Covid-19 support schemes. Also 3,000 more were diverted to work related to the UK leaving the EU so that, as another hidden cost of Brexit, it had to put other parts of tax activity to one side thus building a “bit of a backlog”.

Candidly, HMRC admitted that it was resourced to give a “decent” rather than “brilliant” service due to imposed “efficiencies”, i.e., funding cuts. Worryingly, if it does not achieve these efficiencies, customers were likely to experience an even poorer service.

The committee said “yet again customer service has collapsed and HMRC’s recovery plans are not clear”.

Joined:Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm

Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby etf » Wed Jun 22, 2022 10:04 am

Tax bodies raise concerns over HMRC service levels
by Richard Hattersley
Following pressure from their members, accountancy’s professional bodies have written a joint letter to HMRC highlighting “long-standing concerns” over the tax department’s service levels.

22nd Jun 2022
A letter, signed by ATT, CIOT, ICAEW and ICAS, calls attention to the frequent concerns raised by their members about “poor HMRC service levels”.

The professional bodies broke from their usual diplomacy, where they would typically not publicly express any concerns about HMRC’s performance standards, and published the letter after being continuously contacted by their members and faced with questions over what they’re going to do about it.

“We are under considerable pressure from our members to demonstrate what we are doing about poor HMRC performance levels and to raise the issues with government, parliamentary committees and the media,” said the letter. “The impact on individuals and businesses of these delays is considerable.”

Common issues
The letter sent to HMRC’s director general customer services shared a number of issues that “should not come as a surprise” to the tax department.

The frequent issues raised by the professional bodies include self assessment registrations and refunds, correspondence about VAT grouping and the option to tax, section 455 refunds, responses to technical queries, corporation tax post and returns not processed.

The professional bodies also flagged the long-standing complaints stemming from the “erratic” agent dedicated line.

The agent line was withdrawn during the pandemic but, although HMRC restored access last summer, the professional bodies reported in the letter that accountants still face long waiting times, calls unexpectedly cut off and promised callbacks not actually happening.

When the priority helpline returned last year, HMRC committed to a 10-minute turnaround time. But the feedback from the professional bodies suggests that waiting times haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. The dedicated line returned under the proviso that agents were being encouraged to use digital services rather than use the phone lines as the first port of call.

Professional bodies seek more information
Ahead of the next representative bodies steering group on 5 July, the professional bodies asked for more information and updates on three areas key to HMRC’s customer service:

HMRC performance dashboard: The bodies want HMRC to confirm the expected timescale for the rollout of the performance dashboard. The dashboard was designed to give agents a better idea of the waiting times and postal progress, but as of the start of the year, it was still under trial.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC): In February, the influential group of MPs took HMRC to task earlier for their decade of “inadequate levels of customer service”. The committee saw improvement in 2016, but since then service levels had declined. In its recommendations, which the government agreed with, the PAC called on HMRC to explain the service levels it’s aiming to provide, how it has tested its customer service plans, and any contingency plans if taxpayer communication exceeds the forecasted levels. The professional bodies want to know if these plans are still on target, especially as these recommendations are expected to be covered in HMRC’s Treasury Minute response this month.
HMRC performance statistics: The professional bodies also asked HMRC when the latest performance statistics for January to March 2022 will be published.
“Solid progress”
HMRC confirmed to AccountingWEB that it will respond to the letter from professional bodies in due course.

Responding to the complaints raised in the letter, an HMRC spokesperson said: “We made solid progress last year and this will carry on in 2022/23.

“We continue to improve our helpline service and are currently recruiting extra staff. Average call waiting times (year to date) have fallen by seven minutes from April 2021 to February 2022 and we’ve also increased the proportion of correspondence cleared within 15 days by more than 20 percentage points over the same period.

“Overall customer satisfaction has remained above 80%.”

Not the first intervention
While professional bodies largely refrain from making public statements, they have intervened in recent years to call out poor service lines. In May last year, ICAEW published a catalogue of complaints about HMRC’s “poor service levels” and urged the tax department to restore its agent dedicated line.

HMRC has struggled to keep on top of its service levels since the tax department had to redirect frontline support to cope with the pressures of the Covid pandemic and the UK leaving the EU.

In February this year, HMRC cut back its VAT helplines to four days a week for two months to work through stocks of post built up over the past year.

Community headaches
Long delays from HMRC have become a regular topic on AccountingWEB’s Any Answers forum. In April, reader JRX said they had just received a letter from HMRC which began: “Thank you for your letter of 25th August 2021. I apologise for the delay in responding to you.'”

While this member waited eight months for a reply, other AccountingWEB users reported waiting times of over a year. AccountingWEB regular Snickersinatwist, for example, submitted a loss carry back claim for corporation tax on 12 October 2020 and HMRC finally processed it on 20 December 2021.

The criticism from the professional bodies follows an excoriating takedown of HMRC’s service levels from the public accounts committee in February this year.

The committee concluded that HMRC’s customer service had “collapsed” and their recovery plans were “not clear”. The report found that average waiting times were over 15 minutes and only 43% of post received a response within 15 days.

Joined:Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:25 pm

Re: HMRC-is it time to call the Army in?

Postby etf » Mon Jul 11, 2022 3:17 pm

HMRC responds to tax bodies’ attack on service levels
by Will Cole
HMRC has finally responded to the joint letter from professional tax bodies expressing “long-standing concerns” over service levels.

11th Jul 2022
After a surprising break from diplomacy that saw several professional bodies issue a scathing broadside over HMRC’s “poor service levels”, the department has responded to allegations over their allegedly lacklustre performance.

AccountingWEB users have also made their feelings known over HMRC’s recent drop in performance, with contributors such as bosclibby calling the department “a shambles, barely fit for purpose”.

In a letter to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Myrtle Lloyd, director general customer services, wrote that while the department understood the “impact our performance has on your members”, HMRC felt positive about the steps that were taken in the 21–22 financial year.

Solid progress
Noting the department’s achievements over the past fiscal year, Lloyd wrote that “solid progress” had been made and hoped to continue that progress heading into 22–23. Citing current agent dedicated line (ADL) data, Lloyd argued that the department was aiming to answer all calls within 10 minutes and highlighted that its current data “rarely exceeded this”.

However, Lloyd did concede that the department will be “reviewing the ADL position” ahead of a bespoke Representative Bodies Steering Group (RBSG) in the coming weeks.

Aside from their ADL figures, Lloyd wrote that across their other tax lines, call wait times had fallen by an average of seven minutes between April 2021 and February 2022, which was down to increased staff numbers and training opportunities.

Lloyd also argued that the proportion of correspondence cleared within 15 days increased by 20% in the same period and that “overall customer satisfaction has remained above 80%.”

By HarryB
11th Jul 2022 09:42
It was hardly an 'attack' on service levels. The letter was very polite and almost apologetic in tone - 'Dear HMRC, very sorry to bother you, but would you mind answering the phone a little quicker, many thanks, your obedient servants...'
If the professional bodies don't publicly hold HMRC to account, who will??? They need to be far more forceful and more public in their criticism.
The dashboard is rubbish- complete waste of time and does not accurately reflect reality.
Fact - letter received this week resolving an HKRC error and penalties caused by a duplicated UTR - almost exactly a year after my complaint!! That is cr*p service.

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Replying to HarryB:
By May bee
11th Jul 2022 09:34
Spot on HarryB!

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By Nebs
11th Jul 2022 09:47
If Manchester United lost their first four games of the season all by the same score of 7-0, do you think the fans would suddenly be happy if they only lost the next game 6-0.

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Replying to Nebs:
By Hugo Fair
11th Jul 2022 10:18
The 'random' (aka extremely selective) use of unrelated statistical extracts are deliberately designed to be meaningless whilst allowing the speaker to feel good.

Not sure which is more worrying:
* Are HMRC really that stupid?
* Or do they think we're all that gullible?

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
11th Jul 2022 11:51
To be fair to HMRC there has been a distinct improvement in call waiting times recently. I got through in under 15 minutes twice last week.

But "from a low base" would be a considerable understatement. Under 15 minutes being 'quick'.

What isn't being addressed is any of the gross inefficiencies that have been around for years that here seem to be no plan or will to address. Eg farce over Class 2 NI that must waste 1000's of hours on both sides per annum due to poor programming and doesn't even seem to be acknowledged as something that needs fixing.

Also very disappointed that our representative bodies are being so tame about MTDfIT. They seem to be passively accepting the project instead of expressing withering assessments about the lack of any basic competence at HMRC side.

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Danny Kent
By Viciuno
11th Jul 2022 12:25
HMRC are a joke. In particular the satisfaction levels always make me chuckle:

A) who has time to do these? Would be interesting to find out the % of correspondence, I suspect much less than 1%.
B) when you are on the phone you are asked if you will take part in a survey, I would but it asks me for a mobile number to send it to me. I have better things to do - why not do what everyone else does and just tack on a 30 second survey along the lines of "how happy are you between 0-10" and give option to leave 30 second comment (that can be reviewed later or transcribed by a computer). Automatic scores of 0 should be issued if call handler drops call and not "customer".
C) Satisfaction doesn't equal accuracy. I'm told rubbish by half the handlers I speak to and if I was joe blogs I'd go off on my way happy, but misinformed.
D) I'm never sent a survey when corresponding by letter. Why not?

If the metrics they use to measure their performance is flawed then any conclusions they draw will also be. I'd take more from the letter if they said "we tried calling the agent helpline, 100 times throughout the day and experienced waiting times of x. We also created 100 test issues, all of which were handled in y".

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By scrasey
11th Jul 2022 13:35
HMRC have not been fit for service for years.
The staggering incompetence and arrogance of some of their staff is quite breath taking.
As for the response from our professional bodies, absolutely woefull. I am really struggling to find anything positive from the ACCA for my membership fee.
There was a good article here on this (, but our professional bodies should be on the news tearing a strip off of HMRC and demanding better, not sending lame letters that have no impact. I'm nearly 50 and god I wish I could retire from all the HMRC cr*p. The amount of time I have to spend talking to clients because they've got fed up of waiting for replies or refunds and the amount of bull they are fed by incompetent staff is starting to get stupid. It's high time there was proper oversight of the shambolic disorganised, poorly managed excuse for a government department. And also about time our professional bodies stood up for their members.

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By JustAnotherUser
11th Jul 2022 14:19
would love to see the calulations and methods they use for CSAT

“overall customer satisfaction has remained above 80%" CSAT is already a terrible measure and abused massively.

Im not asking what uis CSAT, im asking how are they using CSAT and how do they calculate it.

Worst case it likely that 80% of people asked rated them 8,9 or 10. Which means 1 in 5 could have rated it 1 out of 10 which is awful, but 80% looks good yay

Or they do 'take the number of satisfied customers (those who rated you 8, 9 or 10), and divide by the total number of responses.... to get 80% here they would need massive numbers of huigh scores... I suspect theyre fudging this and choosing who and when they survey, then manually removing some scores for various reasons which benefit the scor

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