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Response to National Audit Office report on HMRC

25 May 2016

Citizens Advice has today said that people left waiting on the phone to speak to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are in some cases at risk of getting into debt because of the cost of the call or the wait means they miss tax deadlines.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has today released a report finding that by cutting staff numbers before service changes had been completed, HMRC left some people who called at busy times waiting over an hour. They estimate the overall cost incurred by customers who called the taxes helpline increased from £63 million in 2012-13 to £97 million in 2015-16.

Citizens Advice also helped with 250,000 queries in the last 12 months which could require people to contact HMRC.  

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Waiting on the phone to HMRC has put some people at risk of debt.

“Long waiting times not only cause frustration and increase the cost of the call, but can also mean people miss important deadlines.  For example if you don’t return your tax form on time you face a fine - which for some households can be an additional cost they can’t afford to pay.

“It will be a relief to callers that average waiting times to get through to HMRC have reduced since last year.  It is really important that HMRC continues to use the data they have on when people are calling to better manage their resources and meet demand, especially ahead of the deadline for tax credit renewals at the end of July.”

A Citizens Advice analysis of complaints over Twitter about HMRC from 29 August 2014 to 28 August 2015 revealed the average call waiting time to be 47 minutes. Separate research also revealed that people were regularly struggling to get through to HMRC in the first two weeks of each month.

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Notes to editors

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  5. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.