A spending watchdog have reported that taxpayers lost the equivalent of £97m last year after being forced to hang on the phone while calling HMRC.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said that between 2014 and 2015 the quality of service from HMRC was extremely poor, with some customers being kept on hold for up to an hour.

Using HMRC’s own criteria for a recent study, the NAO assessed peoples time at £17 per hour and claimed callers would have wasted:

£66m waiting on the phone

£21m talking to HMRC

£10m on the cost of the call

The NAO said this was due to HMRC’s decision to reduce their staff by 11,000 between 2010 and 2014 as part of their plan to encourage people to complete their tax returns online and as such would need fewer employees. However, this backfired and HMRC had to recruit 2,400 staff to assist on the helpline.

Amyas Morse from The National Audit Office said “This does not change the fact that they got their timing badly wrong in 2014, letting significant numbers of call handling staff go before their new approach was working reliably,”

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