Following a trial closure, the HMRC helpline for self-assessment is open again. The pilot directed self-assessment taxpayers to the Government’s online functions for three months over the summer.
But why did it happen, and how did it affect self-assessment customers? Here’s everything you need to know.
HMRC phone closure begins
At the start of June 2023, HMRC decided to pilot a new seasonal model for its self-assessment helpline. For three months from 12 June, HMRC directed callers from the helpline to its online guidance, webchat, and digital assistants.
At the time, HMRC said this move would free up 350 advisers, allowing them to focus on more urgent inquiries. According to the Government, the reasoning behind the decision was that 97% of self-assessment customers file online already, and the phone lines are far quieter over the summer.
Speaking in June, Angela MacDonald, deputy CEO and second permanent secretary at HMRC, said:
“We continually review our services to see how they can best serve the public, and we are taking steps to improve them.
“A seasonal self-assessment helpline will make more of our expert advisers available where they are most needed during the summer months.”
After reopening on 4 September, the self-assessment lines have been overwhelmed with calls from customers who could not use the service over the summer.
Over the three months, an estimated 1.2 million self-assessment customers were directly impacted by the helpline closure. Once the helpline reopened, the sheer volume of taxpayers attempting to get through to HMRC also resulted in high wait times.
In response to the onslaught of calls, HMRC tweeted:
“The helpline was always going to be busy when it re-opened. Many customers can get an answer to their query quicker by going online and should use these services if they can.
“This will help ensure customers who need to speak to an adviser are able to do so.”
The future of the self-assessment helpline
Following this summer’s trial period, the Government has hinted that this won’t be the last time the self-assessment helpline will close over the summer period.
Victoria Aitkins, secretary to the Treasury, said:
“We will be watching this very, very carefully. If it is helping with some of the customer service problems we have, then we will look to see if we can surge people at other times of the year when there are peaks and troughs in the higher activity areas. It is about using our people as effectively as possible when customers are trying to contact HMRC.”
For any self-assessment customers still waiting to file their 2022/23 tax returns, the upcoming registration deadline is 5 October, with the paper filing deadline following on 31 October. Any outstanding online submissions and payments are due by midnight on 31 January 2024.
Meet your obligations
With the changes coming to HMRC’s self-assessment support networks, it’s best to make sure you’re following the best procedures and staying on top of your obligations, just in case you struggle to get through.
We can help you with all aspects of your self-assessment and deal with HMRC on your behalf to save you extra time and stress.
Get in touch to discuss our self-assessment tax return services.