HMRC’s performance update for October to December 2022 shows customer service standards for dealing with phone calls and correspondence are still not being met. There has been a worrying further increase in HMRC’s debt balance.

HMRC’s customer service problems are starting to receive significant attention from the mainstream media on the back of Parliamentary Accounts Committee activity and pressure from other sources, including a press release from ICAEW.  

The quarterly performance update for October to December 2022 and supporting detail show: 

  • The proportion of customer correspondence turned around within 15 working days is 71% (from April to December 2022), below the 80% service standard.
  • Only 75% of customers who wanted to speak to an adviser were able to do so, below the 85% service standard.
  • The average year to date waiting time reported is 14:51 minutes, a very long way off the five-minute service standard. Helpline opening times have not yet reverted to those that operated pre-pandemic.
  • The percentage of taxpayers waiting more than 10 minutes continues to exceed 60% (target 15%).
  • HMRC has cleared £60bn of the peak August 2020 £72bn debt stock but, due to the economic conditions, the debt balance is increasing again and is back up to £48bn. This is an increase of £6bn in six months and does not yet reflect self assessment liabilities unpaid on 31 January 2023.

HMRC notes that the number of income taxpayers has increased to 34m in 2022/23 from 31 million in 2015/16 and that the number of higher rate taxpayers is also expected to increase.  

ICAEW’s Tax Faculty has previously pointed out the impact that the freezing of bands and thresholds (and the forthcoming reduction of the dividend allowance and capital gains tax annual exempt amount) on HMRC’s workload and the need for it to be adequately resourced to deal with this demand. 

HMRC also points to the poor take up of its online services, noting that in September 2022 around 1.5m people phoned HMRC for matters they could have handled online. However, HMRC needs to ask itself why its online services are not being used as much as they expect – blaming its poor performance on taxpayers for not using them is unhelpful.  

Behind the raw statistics are numerous stories of the difficulties that HMRC’s service performance is causing taxpayers and agents. Recent reports include a property deal falling through because of HMRC’s delay in processing the necessary VAT registration and a straightforward registration of a new partner joining a partnership, which is still outstanding after 16 months.  

HMRC’s dashboard shows service levels not being met in many areas even though some dates, such as the VAT registration, which is now eight weeks rather than six, have been extended and ICAEW members report that the dashboard does not reflect their experiences. 

Members who would like to feedback to HMRC are encouraged to complete the survey Have your say: HMRC’s performance against Charter standards | ICAEW. 

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