HMRC claims it is offering its best customer service in years presently. This is a reaction from a report that the National Audit Office published in May 2016 stating that the quality of customer service HMRC provides has deteriorated over an 18 month period in 2014 and 2015. In this period some people calling HMRC were waiting up to an hour, treble the average call waiting time, costing taxpayers the equivalent of £97 million last year.
HMRC says it has achieved improvements to customer service by:
• recruiting more than 3,000 additional advisers who can work outside normal office hours;
• introducing more flexible working to deal with large fluctuations in customer demand throughout the year, underpinned by a new telephone system that enables HMRC to move calls around the country in response to demand;
• launching online services that enable customers to manage their tax affairs when and where they want, including by smartphone, with online support such as webchats.
HMRC have also indicated that they may make the following changes that were in Chancellor George Osborne’s 2016 budget, including:
• the introduction of a seven-day service by April 2017, with extended hours and Sunday opening on main phone lines, as well as online support services such as webchats;
• the recruitment of more than 800 new staff into the customer services teams, to reduce call answering times and further increase the flexibility to respond to demand;
• a new secure email service – operated through customers’ online tax accounts.
Ruth Owen, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: “Over the past six months we’ve consistently answered calls in an average of six minutes, and have launched new online tax accounts and webchat for everyone, enabling customers to manage their tax affairs wherever and whenever they want. There’s never been a better or more convenient service for our customers.”
Research conducted by CIPP has shown that HMRC's response times in recent months have improved.