HMRC’s helpline has been criticised following an investigation carried out by consumer watchdog Which?

The report found that little or no improvement had been made to the HMRC helpline since the meeting with Public Accounts Committee in July where they received an extremely poor review for their long waiting times and low record of answering calls.

It is expected that thousands will attempt to use the service in the coming weeks in order to complete their self-assessment tax returns before the January deadline.

Which? found that 29 out of 100 calls were cut off by a ‘very busy’ automated message. It also highlighted that the systems voice recognition software failed to detect a number of complex phrases and questions.

In the instances where callers were not cut off, they faced an average waiting time of 18 minutes before actually speaking to an advisor, one caller was left on hold for 41 minutes.

Official figures show that 74.5 per cent of calls to HMRC were answered last year, compared with their target of 80 per cent.

A spokesperson for HMRC said “HMRC receive over 40 million calls a year, but we know that some of our customers struggle to get through on our helplines at very busy times. This is isn’t good enough and we are working hard to improve the range of services we provide”

“This year we are introducing new technology to help us answer more calls quicker at busy times and we are improving the digital services we offer so that more customers can find all they need online”

Which? Executive Director Richard Lloyd said “With large numbers of people soon to be seeking help with their self-assessment tax return we want to see HMRC doing more to monitor and improve their call waiting times”

The deadline for submitting your online self-assessment tax return is 31st January 2015.

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