HMRC pauses planned move to self service-only channels

A day after announcing its intention to close telephone lines and webchat to force users to use digital self-help channels, HMRC is now halting its plans in response to the feedback while it "engages with its stakeholders" about how to ensure all taxpayers’ needs are met.

Listen to 'HMRC pauses planned move to self service-only channels'

While the desired destination remains the same - "shifting more people to online self-service in the longer term." - this will no longer involve closing the existing helpline for five months between April and September.

Jim+Harra+HMRC"The pace of this change needs to match the public appetite for managing their tax affairs online," said Jim Harra, Chief Executive of HM Revenue & Customs. "We’ve listened to the feedback and we’re halting the helpline changes as we recognise more needs to be done to ensure all taxpayers’ needs are met, whilst also encouraging them to transition to online services. Our helpline and webchat advisers will always be there for those taxpayers who need support because they are vulnerable, digitally excluded or have complex affairs."

The changes to the Self Assessment, VAT and PAYE helplines announced by HMRC will all be halted - which means the phone lines will remain open between April and September.

Deflecting demand

The original plan was driven by a desire to "maximise every pound of taxpayers' money" and followed on from a successful trial in 2023 when over a three-month period HMRC directed Self Assessment queries from the helpline to the department’s digital services, including its online guidance, digital assistant and web chat.

This freed up to 350 advisers (full-time equivalent) to take urgent calls on other lines and answer customer correspondence. If focused on urgent calls, 350 FTEs can answer 6600 calls a day.

During this trial, after a brief initial spike in calls when the helpline reopened, calls quickly returned to normal levels.

Digital first, not digital only

HMRC will continue encouraging customers to self-serve where possible and access the information they need more quickly and easily by going online or to the HMRC app.

Those using HMRC’s online services rate them highly, with satisfaction ratings of over 80%. The HMRC app is used by 1.2 million customers each month and has a 4.8 out of 5 rating on the Apple App Store.

HMRC’s online guidance includes written guidance, recorded webinars, You Tube videos and a Digital Assistant. These can answer most customer queries, and if they do not, customers have access to HMRC advisers online, through webchat.

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