HMRC’s customer service levels have reportedly deteriorated in recent months, with the average wait time for its customer helpline soaring 31% to 12:45 minutes in November 2020, up from 9:42 minutes in October, according to accountancy firm Moore.
The firm said this is due to an under-resourcing in HMRC’s customer service team, and warns that as a result, taxpayers could be deterred from seeking assistance, which could lead to them making “significant” mistakes on their tax returns and subsequently receiving penalties for underpaying tax.
It comes as HMRC customer service experienced a realm of “significant” delays in November 2020.
Some 48% of customer calls had to wait for more than 10 minutes to be answered in November, up from 31% the previous month and 17% in November 2019.
Meanwhile, only 47% of iForms were turned around in seven days in November, down from 77% the previous month and 95% in November 2019.
In addition, only 60% of post received by HMRC was cleared within three weeks in November, down from 81% the previous month and 86% in November 2019.
In light of these increased wait times, Moore is now calling on HMRC to employ more temporary staff to assist with the self-assessment tax deadline on 31 January, one of the busiest times of the year for HMRC.
Tim Woodgates, associate at Moore, said: “When HMRC’s customer service levels fall, taxpayers can end up overpaying or underpaying tax. If customer service falls below a certain level, HMRC should consider reallocating some of its compliance staff to helping customers.
“Like all organisations, HMRC is going to face logistical challenges from the pandemic and the lockdown, but we are now well over six months in, which should be enough time to adjust to the situation.”
He added: “The next self-assessment deadline is fast approaching and HMRC’s current performance is unlikely to give taxpayers much reassurance. Nearly half of the 2.4 million customer calls in November had to wait for over 10 minutes to be answered.”
“Ensuring that coronavirus support schemes reach those who need them in a timely manner is extremely important – however, other matters are being pushed aside as a result. If customers do not get the assistance they require, this will only create more problems for HMRC in the long run.”