It was announced on 8th June 2023, that HMRC will pilot a new seasonal model for the Self-Assessment helpline. This is to prioritise helping those with urgent queries. It means from 12th June 2023 for 3 months, HMRC will close the Self-Assessment (SA) helpline. Instead, all queries will be directed to the department’s digital services. This includes its online guidance, digital assistant, and webchat. The helpline will re-open on 4 September 2023. This is so customers can receive support in the 5 months up to the SA deadline on 31st January 2024.
Since the announcement, much has been said about HMRC resources in closing down the helpline for taxpayers. With the government’s attempts to cut public spending seen as a major prerogative due to the state of the economy, this was a move that is unsurprising yet potentially damaging. Fortunately, agents such as ourselves will still be able to phone the agent dedicated line (ADL) for self-assessment related queries. This means, for anyone worried about their self-assessment tax return, Nordens still has a direct contact to HMRC should you want us to query anything. The closure of the helpline will mainly impact unrepresented taxpayers.
We explain the measure taken by HMRC, why they’ve chosen to do this, and how Nordens can support those in need…
Why Have HMRC Closed The Self-Assessment Helpline?
To say that public finances are scarce presently would be an understatement. After the Autumn Budget, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt admitted to nearly £30bn in public spending cuts across government departments. According to Tax Justice UK, for more than a decade HMRC has faced year on year cuts to funding at the same time as ongoing internal re-organisations. In fact, HMRC’s budget after years of cuts was 40% less in 2016 than in 2000 real pay term times.
According to HMRC’s press release, the move will free up 350 advisers (full-time equivalent) who take urgent calls on and answer customer correspondence. If focused on urgent calls, these advisers will answer around 6,600 each day, ensuring more customers who really need to speak to an adviser can do so. The SA helpline receives far fewer calls over the summer, with calls around 50% higher between January and April compared with June to August. Around two-thirds of all self-assessment calls can be resolved by customers themselves online. This is while HMRC increases the advisers available on webchat, the Online Service Helpline and the Extra Support Team Helpline.
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 SA helpline will make more of our expert advisers available where they are most needed during the summer months. Our online services, including the HMRC app, are quick and easy to use and have been significantly improved. I urge customers to explore these fully before deciding to wait to speak to us on the phone.”
What Do I Do Now If I Need To Speak To HMRC Directly?
As stated, approximately two thirds of calls to HMRC’s self-assessment helpline can reportedly be resolved via the online service. The vast majority of SA customers use HMRC’s online services, with 97% filing online. At Nordens however, we know all too well the strains of trying to contact a HMRC advisor via phone. We’re also well aware that certain queries have to be resolved using an advisor in direct communication. We’re relieved that the agent dedicated line will remain open.
This means that for anyone who wishes to get into direct contact with HMRC regarding their self-assessment tax return, we’d be more than happy to help all of our clients. We’re always here to support you and your business, and fortunately, we have the resources in this particular matter to be able to directly contact HMRC about any self-assessment concerns or issues.
Adam Truluck, Nordens’ Tax Manager, believes, “Having used the online service myself, I have found that many questions can be resolved on there. Often, it’s actually is easier as you do not have to sit on hold for long lengths of time and can get on with your day whilst waiting for a reply. However, we are more than happy to help and call HMRC for anyone who has the more complicated problems or is not comfortable using the online service.
We hope this has outlined to you why HMRC have decided to temporarily close their self-assessment helpline, and how Nordens can support you through this. If you’d like to know any further information on anything mentioned, or would like us to reach out to HMRC regarding self-assessment on your behalf, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us at Nordens, where one of our trusted advisors would be happy talking you through your query.