HMRC U-turn: Helpline services to remain open this summer after order from Jeremy Hunt

HMRC U-turn: Helpline services to remain open this summer after order from Jeremy Hunt

Yesterday, HMRC was reportedly set to close self assessment tax return phone lines

Patrick O'Donnell

By Patrick O'Donnell

Published: 20/03/2024

- 11:32

Updated: 20/03/2024

- 12:17

HMRC’s tax return phone line services would have only been open for half the year if they were given the green light

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has made a drastic U-turn today, hours after announcing places to close its tax return phone line for six months each year.

Under changes announced yesterday, from April 8 until September 29, taxpayers would have been unable to call HMRC for help with their self assessment tax return.

Earlier today, The Telegraph reported Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ordered the tax authority to scrap its plans.

As such, these changes to helpline services are now being halted while it considers how best to help taxpayers harness online services, HMRC said.

The revenue body said it is pausing its plans in response to feedback and will engage with stakeholders about how to make sure taxpayer needs are met.

A Treasury source told The Telegraph has pushing customers to use online services continues to be the “right thing to do”.

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HMRC logo

HMRC is reversing its plans to half its helpline services


However, they acknowledged that these changes should not come to the “detriment of the general public”.

The source explained: “That’s why ministers have halted this change immediately.”

Following the news of HMRC’s reversal, Caroline Miskin, ICAEW Senior Technical Manager of Digital Taxation, praised the decision.

She said: “This surprising U-turn is good news for taxpayers, who need HMRC customer service to be responsive to their queries.

“If taxpayers can’t speak to a human when they need to, there is a real risk that they give up on trying to do the right thing and that errors and non-compliance increase.

“We hope HMRC will learn lessons and listen to professional bodies and other stakeholders before making major changes in the future.”

Jim Harra, HMRC’s chief executive, said online services will help assist taxpayers going forward.

Despite this, he acknowledged that helpline advisors will “always be there” for taxpayers who are considered vulnerable or digitally excluded.

Mr Harra added: “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.”


HMRC letter

The tax authority will reportedly speak to stakeholders about the best course of action


Even with this move, HMRC is still encouraging taxpayers to use its online services as much as possible.

People can access guidance by visiting the tax authority’s website or by using the HMRC app which is available 24/7.

Among those who use HMRC’s online services, customers award the body a 80 per cent satisfaction rating.

Currently, the app is used by 1.2 million customers every month and has a 4.8 out of 5 rating on the Apple App Store.

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