16 million people are left queuing for over 5 minutes to get through to HMRC

Government ministers have blasted HMRC for their failure to answer customer phone calls within an appropriate length of time. The tax office has also been chastised by MPs who have said HMRC’s expectation that 20 per cent of calls to their call centres will take over five minutes to answer are not ambitious enough.

In retaliation to the criticism, HMRC have promised to change their hotlines to cheaper alternatives than the current 0845 numbers and also to answer phone calls more quickly. These promises come after HMRC were last year ostracised for costing callers £136 million annually through the delays in answering phone calls. This figure was calculated through time lost whilst a customer queued on the phone as well as the cost of the call charge itself.

A report into HMRC customer service satisfaction, conducted by the National Audit Office, showed that 20 million telephone calls to HMRC hotlines were not answered at all. The report, which was published in December, also found that last year 6.5 million people waited on hold to HMRC for over 10 minutes. It is estimated that £33m on call charges was spent whilst customers were on hold. HMRC has now said it is set to move 0845 calls to cheaper 03 numbers by the end of the summer.