Treasury announces extra £51million for HMRC so phoneline staff can answer more calls

HMRC scrapped plans to close its Self Assessment phone lines for several months of the year earlier this year

HMRC logo on letter and person looks worried while on the phone

Jessica Sheldon

By Jessica Sheldon

Published: 13/05/2024

- 13:36

HMRC did a U-turn on plans to close its Self Assessment phone lines over the summer earlier this year

HM Treasury has announced £51million in new funding to bring HMRC's phoneline service back up to target.

The money will enable HMRC staff to answer more calls and help customers over the phone, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Nigel Huddleston said today.

The extra funding will help the tax department to achieve the performance standards its curstomers expect, the Treasury said.

It's expected to aid the productivity of small businesses, as they will not need to spend as much time waiting on the phone to manage their tax affairs.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Nigel Huddleston said: “People sometimes think that managing their tax is daunting – but it doesn’t have to be, which is why I’m fully committed to providing HMRC with the resources it needs to meet the needs of all its customers.

“Many tasks can quickly and easily be completed online or via the HMRC app, but today’s funding means that everyone can rest assured there will be someone at the end of the phone, ready to speak.”

Jim Harra, HMRC’s Chief Executive and First Permanent Secretary, said: “We remain committed to expanding our online services, and encouraging customers to go online where they can, as we strive to deliver good services as cost-effectively as possible. But we recognise this must happen at a pace the public is comfortable with.

“This additional funding will enable us to improve our helpline service for those who need to speak to us – including the vulnerable and digitally excluded - making sure they get the support they require.”

Although many people prefer speaking to someone over the phone, HMRC estimates that around two-thirds of all Self-Assessment calls can be dealt with online instead of by telephone.

The department received more than three million calls on three things that could have been done digitally last year: resetting an online password, getting a tax code, and getting a National Insurance number.

HMRC has reiterated its strategy is to move customers to online services, so its phoneline advisers can focus on helping people who need to speak to someone and operating more cost-efficiently.

The use of HMRC's online services has increased "considerably", the Treasury said, with its online accounts and mobile app accessed almost 250 million times in 2023/24.

HMRC was forced to backtrack on plans to close the self-assessment tax return helpline for some of the year earlier this year.

Days before, the revenue body said it would close the self-assessment phoneline service between April and September, and people would instead be directed to its online services.

Following an outcry of criticism, HMRC subsequently said it was halting its plans to the feedback while it engages with stakeholders about how to ensure all taxpayers' needs are met, as it shifts more people to online services in the longer term.

HMRC chief executive Jim Harra said on Wednesday: “Making best use of online services allows HMRC to help more taxpayers and get the most out of every pound of taxpayers’ money by boosting productivity.


Couple look worried at laptop

HMRC is encouraging people to use their online services rather than the phone lines where possible


“Our helpline and webchat advisers will always be there for those taxpayers who need support because they are vulnerable, digitally excluded or have complex affairs.

“However the pace of this change needs to match the public appetite for managing their tax affairs online.

“We’ve listened to the feedback and we’re halting the helpline changes as we recognise more needs to be done to ensure all taxpayers’ needs are met, whilst also encouraging them to transition to online services.”

You may like