The Tax Faculty responds to the consultation
We reported recently that HMRC was reviewing its telephone Contact Centre (CC) opening times. The Tax Faculty has now submitted our response as TAXREP 29/10.
HMRC says that it is reducing opening times to provide a better service at busy times and because providing a service on Sundays is expensive and fewer calls are received then than at other times.
HMRC is also considering reducing the opening hours of its Enquiry Centres – as we have previously reported – which is likely to mean that more people will need to use the telephone service for their questions.
The main points we make in our response are that
- We agree it makes sense to review the CC opening hours to ensure the service meets the requirements of HMRC’s ‘customers’ in the most cost-effective way for both HMRC and customers.
- We welcome any change which means that more calls will be answered and more quickly. For practitioners, time wasted is a cost which they might not be able to pass on to their client. Or if they can pass it on, it adds to clients’ tax compliance costs.
- We are not convinced by the decision to limit the availability of the CC service out of normal business hours. This service is important to many taxpayers, and also to our members (for example, at the self assessment filing peak).
- We think that HMRC should have taken the opportunity to make a wider study of the demand from different customer groups for each of the CC services and how this might be catered for, rather than simply reviewing existing call patterns and deciding to reduce hours.
- We believe that certain CCs, such as self assessment, debt management, online services help, order line and tax credits should remain open at least for some time on Sundays. This would allow those who find it difficult to call at any other times to make contact.
- If Sunday opening of CCs is to stop, it is our view that relevant CCs should still be open on Sundays at busy times of the year, for example during tax credits renewals and approaching the self assessment paper and online filing deadlines. This will allow those who have been unable to get through at other times to speak to someone.
- We welcome the proposals to make appropriate and better use of recorded announcements (IVR) so that callers do not waste time unnecessarily.
- HMRC needs to keep its Your Charter obligations in mind when making any changes, particularly the taxpayer’s rights to support and to have costs kept low.