HMRC telephone waiting times at worst ever levels

It has been well publicised that the standard of HMRC’s telephone helplines have slipped to an appalling level, but it is worth explaining the negative impact on our services to our clients.

Closing the Agent Dedicated Line

The Agent Dedicated Line (ADL) has enabled us for years to contact HMRC quickly to resolve problems without going through the public phone lines. For reasons known only to HMRC, they had decided to close the ADL for several months in 2023 and then closed it again for the peak month of tax return filing in January 2024. It appears not to have crossed their minds that, as a result of the backlog, there would be a large volume of calls when the lines re-opened in February. 

At present in early March, it is nigh impossible to contact HMRC by phone and their recorded messages state that the average wait time is 30 to 40 minutes. More commonly, the call is terminated after around 10 minutes, with a recorded message to announce that ‘all of our operators are still busy’. Our clients are understandably not expecting to pay us to hear piped music for 30 minutes with no outcome.

Public Department 1 calls

It has been reported that MPs, senior civil servants and high-profile figures, who are dealt by the Public Department 1 (PD1) office, can reach HMRC by telephone within 2 minutes. The report claims that PD1 calls are answered up to 12 times faster than the general public’s.

How this affects our clients negatively

We have clients who have suffered hardship since before Christmas due to errors by HMRC or delayed refunds which could normally be solved with a 3 minute phone call. The irony is that our only option is to send them a letter, thus adding to their backlog of post which reportedly is 12 months.

I am old enough to remember when we could call in at the local tax office to discuss and resolve problems...

The appalling waiting times are understandably very frustrating and disappointing for our clients. We hope that HMRC will address these issues as soon as possible; for the foreseeable future though, we appreciate our clients’ patience and understanding in this matter.

The next step

If you have any questions regarding this, please contact Mike Crellin on, or your usual UHY adviser.

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