Several of HMRC’s helplines have been switched from expensive 0845 numbers to cheaper 03 numbers. HMRC has promised that by the end of summer none of their helplines will still use the 0845 prefix.

What problems have the HMRC helplines had?

Unfortunately though, the changes in phone numbers did not occur early enough to benefit the thousands of customers who needed to contact the tax office at the start of the new tax year. Real time information (RTI) for PAYE began this spring and calls from taxpayers and advisers attempting to file RTI returns for the first time flooded HMRC helplines, the majority of which were still 0845 numbers. Many customers reported they could not get through to an advisor but were rather greeted by a recorded message asking them to try again later. Numerous customers who did get through to a real person said they were put on hold for lengthy periods.

What are the changes?

The tax credits helpline has been an 0300 number since the start of 2013. In the most recent changes HMRC has moved the following helplines to cheaper prefixes:

  • Child benefit helpline: 0300 200 3100
  • Guardian’s allowance helpline: 0300 200 3101
  • Online services helpdesk: 0300 200 3600
  • BillPay plus: 0300 200 3601
  • Employer helpline: 0300 200 3200
  • New employer helpline: 0300 200 3211

The former 0845 numbers will still remain active for 18 months with recorded messages explaining the switch and advising customers of the new numbers.

Why have HMRC changed their numbers?

The change in phone numbers was announced after HMRC was forced to reveal, in answer to questioning from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) at a meeting in January, that their phone-line provider, Cable & Wireless, made almost £1m in profit from HMRC helpline calls alone.

An HMRC spokesperson said of the switch: “We want customers to be able to access our services at the lowest cost possible. For most customers, a 0300 number is cheaper to call than a 0845 number”