HMRC Missed Calls Cost Taxpayer £136m A Year
Delays in answering phone calls to HM Revenue and Customs hotlines cost the taxpayer £136m in the last year.
According to a National Audit Office (NAO) report, delays cost customers £33m in call charges while they waited for HMRC to answer the phone and the estimated value of customer time while they waited was £103m.
The NAO said 20 million calls to HMRC hotlines - many of which are 0845 numbers - were not picked up at all last year.
People who did get through were also waiting longer to speak to an adviser - an average of 282 seconds compared with 107 seconds in 2009/10.
In the first quarter of this year, some 6.5 million people were left holding on for longer than 10 minutes.
"Depending on the tariff they pay their phone company, customers are charged once their call is connected even if they are held in a queue," the report†said.
"We estimate that if HMRC improved performance to answer 90% of calls and reduced waiting times, it could save customers around £52m a year.
"HMRC currently plans to spend £34m to achieve this level of performance."
The NAO found there had been some progress since thousands more staff were drafted in, with the 74% pick-up rate significantly higher than the 48% recorded in 2010/11.
However, the report warned that the figures probably underestimated the issue, as calls are counted as answered even if they do not reach an adviser.
Public Accounts Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said: "When people have no choice but to contact the Revenue to discuss their tax affairs, I find it totally unacceptable that HMRC uses costly 0845 numbers and charges people for the privilege of waiting for the department to pick up."
TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: "This report exposes a shameful level of service at HMRC.
"Taxpayers will be outraged that HMRC could let 20 million phone calls go unanswered and yet still claim that it is outperforming some arbitrary target."
An HMRC spokesman said: "In 2010/11 we answered 48% of all call attempts, rising to 74% in 2011/12.
"By late 2012 we were answering over 90% of calls to our contact centres. We are well aware that in the past we have not delivered the standard of service to which we are committed.
"We are determined to build on this progress and we have invested £34m so we can deliver on our improvement targets earlier than planned."
what do you think?
If the number of staff hadn't been slashed, maybe calls wouldn't be missed. Can't think which government slashed HMRC staff.....
They need more staff. It makes sense when you think of all the tax that goes uncollected. It would pay for itselfand more I would think.
This organisation is a shambles. I was lucky enough to get severance from it having worked there 20 years. When we had local offices we answered 90% of calls within 30 seconds and ALL calls were taken. Now only 74% get answered at all!! Then to top it all off they go on strike over pensions which in this day and age are superb. I have an index linked 20 year pot which will rise with inflation until I can take it out at 60. What is needed is a return to local offices and realistic staffing levels to provide a service again. But will they? No . . In fact I would not be surprised if they eventually outsourced the work to India! Despite the obvious problems with confidentiality. Shocking!!
You can use our FREE WeQ4U app to get through without having to queue as well as saving up to 45 pence per minute if you are calling from a mobile. I have tried to help HMRC with our WeQ4U 4 Business product too but they were not interested in talking to us about it and so the problem remains. Our records show they give VERY bad levels of customer service - wish they would get in touch so we can fix this problem for them overnight! :)
Disgraceful! We are one of the more highly taxed countries and yet they expect us to pay through the nose when we need to speak to someone - and they also expect us to pay postage when we pay our taxes or write to query or complain.