People are experiencing long wait times and terminated calls as they struggle to request advice from government advisors.
Making Tax Digital, the government initiative created to make tax fully digital and deliver an efficient system of administration for taxpayers, has come under fire due to reports of poor service on its helpline. Callers have been frustrated by significant hold times, terminated calls, and a failure to receive promised callbacks.
Evidence provided to the Treasury Select Committee in January 2019 showed that the average waiting time for calls was nearly 7 minutes. In May, this had shot up to 16 minutes and 19 seconds, with 20% of callers waiting for more than 10 minutes to receive an answer to their query. Poor levels of service have seen businesses struggle to meet the August 7th deadline for becoming digitally compliant.
Other complaints include calls being terminated after 10 minutes on the line and failure to properly process automatic callbacks. 13% of callers who opted to avoid the queue and request a callback did not receive one.
Brexit is being cited as one reason for poor performance. With staff being funnelled from other areas of the government to deal with Britain’s impending exit from the EU. The helpline has suffered from major understaffing with “ongoing recruitment and staffing shortfalls” cited as a key challenge. The HMRC has confirmed the hiring of a further 100 telephone agents to work exclusively on Making Tax Digital and has promised that more advisors will be on the line at peak times.
HMRC Chief Executive, Jon Thompson, responded to widespread criticism, saying:
“We continue to refine our support offer in response to feedback from customers and agents. I am aware that some callers have experienced extended waiting times on our VAT helpline. This falls short of the standards of service we want our customers to experience.
‘I’d like to reassure you that we have been working hard to bring the waiting times down and improve performance. In the last week we have started to see positive results from that, with waiting times falling to around our target of five minutes. It is too soon to be confident that we have resolved the issue, and we continue to monitor it very closely.”
The government has also announced that some 120,000 businesses who failed to meet the August cut-off for digital compliance will not be penalised.