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Response to Public Accounts Committee report on HMRC

27 July 2016

As HMRC improves its digital services it needs to carefully plan its resources to meet demand for its phone line and avoid long call queues, Citizens Advice has said today.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of MPs has warned that plans to cut the number of staff at HMRC by a third by 2021 could lead to another “collapse” in customer service. This follows the decision by HMRC last year to save money by reducing its staff by 5,600, which led to people spending more than 4 million hours waiting for their calls to be answered.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The threat of long phone waiting times still hangs over HMRC.

“Some people have previously been left waiting on the phone to HMRC for hours in crucial periods, such as in the run up to deadlines for renewing tax credits. This is not only frustrating and can add to their phone bill, but in some cases people have been fined and pushed into debt for missing a deadline.

“Improving the experience of people using HMRC’s website should make reporting a change in circumstances quicker for some, but many people will continue to need to get through via its phone line. It is positive that HMRC has already reduced average phone waiting times since last year, but it could go further by using its data on when people call to better manage resources and meet demand.”

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.

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.