Taxman takes you listening to mean you’re not waiting

The taxman hasn’t been including the time that callers have to sit and listen to automated messages before getting through as ‘waiting time.’

He only starts counting from when a customer is available – once the messages stop – helping him last year say that waiting times had fallen from 12 minutes to just four minutes.

Scrutinising how he tots up waiting times, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee blasted it as “unacceptable” not to include the message duration, which can be for up to four minutes.

“HMRC’s claim that it had cut waiting times from 12 minutes in 2016 to four minutes last year was incorrect,” says Simon McVicker, policy director at contractor body IPSE.

“The figure failed to take into account the amount of time callers spent listening to automated announcements before entering the queue.”

But tax officials told the committee they measured waiting times once the messages were over, in light of there being no industry standard for measuring average speed to answer calls.

The department added that at September 2017, it took an average of four minutes and 37 seconds to respond to a customer, once the caller had got through listening to all the messages.

“Most people would reasonably include the time listening to an automated message in any measure of speed to answer calls,” the committee said.

“For HMRC not to do so is particularly unacceptable in light of the service the department offers to the high-net-worth individuals who have their own dedicated customer relationship managers, now called customer compliance managers.”

Meg Hiller MP reflected: “HMRC’s customer service has improved on the appalling levels of recent years but its claims about call-answering times don’t stack up.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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