UK taxpayers are increasingly opting to use HMRC’s online services, leading to a fall in waiting time for those contacting it for advice by phone.
HMRC received 3.17m phone calls in October, down from 3.65m the previous month, and improved the average speed of answering a call to five minutes. This beat the average response time for the first nine months of 2019, where it took seven minutes and 18 seconds to answer calls. Its target time for call answering is five minutes.
Despite a 13% fall in calls in October and the pressure to move taxpayers online, the number of calls year on year was up.
However, the five-minutes is the waiting time for the call to be answered and put through the automated answering system, not the length of time a person waits to be dealt with by a tax official. This is just the first contact with the HMRC call centre. Nearly one in five people (17.6%) had to wait more than 10 minutes to speak to an adviser at the tax office, breaking the HMRC target of only 15% of callers.
In October, 400,000 taxpayers signed up for an individual personal tax account (PTAs), up a third on the previous month, bringing the total number of PTAs to 21.3m, since they were launched in December 2015.
There was some improvement in taxpayer satisfaction with HMRC’s digital services, up 3% in the last six months, with 82.1% satisfied or very satisfied, according to the October 2019 HMRC Performance Report.
However, 17.9% of taxpayers were still not satisfied with the digital services, reflecting research issued over the summer that showed significant levels of confusion about the information online and criticism that it was too technical and inaccessible for many users.