HMRC to 'give people more support' with £51million boost

HMRC have reminded people that they urgently need to renew
HMRC has been given a major investment -Credit:PA Archive/PA Images

Some £51million in additional funding has been announced by the Treasury so that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) staff can answer more calls and help more people on the phone. The decision was made after HMRC halted plans to close its self-assessment phonelines over the summer and offer a digital service only, following an outcry from various organisations.

Announcing the funding, financial secretary to the Treasury Nigel Huddleston said he is "fully committed" to providing HMRC with the resources to meet customer needs.

He said: "Many tasks can quickly and easily be completed online or via the HMRC app, but today's funding means that everyone can rest assured there will be someone at the end of the phone, ready to speak."

Jim Harra, HMRC's chief executive and first permanent secretary, said: "We remain committed to expanding our online services and encouraging customers to go online where they can, as we strive to deliver good services as cost-effectively as possible. But we recognise this must happen at a pace the public is comfortable with. This additional funding will enable us to improve our helpline service for those who need to speak to us - including the vulnerable and digitally excluded - making sure they get the support they require."

HMRC said last year it received more than three million calls on just three things that can easily be done digitally - resetting an online password, getting a tax code and getting a national insurance number. HMRC announced plans to shake up its helpline services on March 19.

But on March 20, following an outcry from bodies including tax and accountancy professionals and small businesses, it halted the plans. The plans would have meant that, between April and September, the self-assessment helpline would be closed and customers would be directed to self-serve through its online services. In April, Mr Harra was asked during a Treasury Committee hearing about the effects of not implementing the helpline changes.

He said: "The key pressure point is in our helpline service, where we are giving a service to customers well below the service standard that we want to give them, whether that be wait times or whether that be the proportion of calls that succeed in getting answered by an adviser. And today, a lower proportion of those calls is being answered than would have been the case if we'd been able to implement these changes. Because customers who we would have deflected to the online services are today going through to those helplines."