HMRC U-turn slammed for not ‘addressing issues’ as taxpayers hit by ‘perfect storm’

HMRC U-turn slammed for not ‘addressing issues’ as taxpayers hit by ‘perfect storm’

Would you pay more taxes for a better NHS?

Patrick O'Donnell

By Patrick O'Donnell

Published: 27/03/2024

- 11:03

Updated: 27/03/2024

- 12:25

Experts claim that taxpayers are stuck in a “perfect storm” of issues when filing returns with HMRC

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has been slammed for not “addressing wider issues” impacting taxpayers across the country following a recent U-turn.

Last week, HMRC reversed its plans to close its tax return helpline for six months a year days after announcing the service would be shut from April 8 until September 29.

In the face of public scrutiny, including from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, the tax authority has axed its plans for the time being.

According to HMRC, the department is pausing its decision in response to feedback from various stakeholders.

The department confirmed it is looking to engage with stakeholders about how to ensure the needs of the taxpayer are met.

Concerns were raised over how those filing tax returns, including self-assessment forms, would be able to get help if they run into any issues.

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Woman on phone and HMRC letter

HMRC is being slammed over a recent 'U-turn' regarding its helpline service


Recently, HMRC has made a conscious effort to promote its digital services which millions of taxpayers have turned more to.

However, experts are warning that HMRC’s latest decision will not do enough to tackle the “wider issues” which are affecting the tax authority’s services.

Fiona Fernie, a tax disclosures and investigations Partner at Blick Rothenberg, explained: “This policy U-Turn doesn’t address these wider issues or provide any over-arching ‘win’ for the UK public.

“HMRC staff numbers have fallen significantly over the past 10 years or so, at the same time as the demands on the Revenue have increased exponentially because of issues such as Brexit and the impact of ‘fiscal drag’ on the numbers who are now caught in self-assessment, but also simply because of the increase in tax complexity.

“In addition, it appears the training afforded to HMRC staff has not kept pace with that complexity, so the quality of advice that can easily be accessed either by the general public or, indeed, by agents is often inadequate.”

Furthermore, the tax expert took aim at the process many people go through when filing tax returns with HMRC.

She added: “Some of HMRC’s online forms are also not really fit for purpose which results in an increase in the workload of both HMRC staff and taxpayers or their agents with the result that the underfunding crisis is made more acute.

“This ‘perfect storm’ of underfunding and increased workloads has resulted in ever-increasing delays in those seeking the support of HMRC, often on the simplest matters.

“For example, it can now take several months for a PAYE Reference to be set-up for a new employer or for a company to receive a VAT Registration number.”

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


A sign for HMRC

Taxpayers are caught in a "perfect storm" of issues with HMRC, experts claim


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

An HMRC spokesperson said: “To deal with increasing demand we’re enhancing and expanding our digital services to give customers the quick and easy ways to manage their tax affairs that they expect.

“Our helpline and webchat advisers will always be there to support those who need that specific type of support.

“The majority of our 34 million individual customers are happy with our service but we recognise some can experience difficulties and that is why we are always working to further improve our customer services.”

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