Number of customers complaining about HMRC delays jumped 65% last year to 35,000

Publication featured in: The Telegraph, The Daily Express, Accountancy Web, Accountancy Today and GB News.

The number of customers complaining about HMRC delays jumped 65% last year to 35,000*, up from 21,000 in the previous year.

The surge in complaints has led to HMRC paying compensation to thousands of customers. Customers successfully claimed compensation from the tax authority for a range of issues including costs incurred from waiting on the phone. HMRC also paid compensation to customers who paid excess tax as a result of missing tax deadlines due to delayed responses.

The data also shows that HMRC paid £718,000 to customers complaining about delays in 2022/23, up 94% from the £371,000 in 2021/22. The number of customers complaining about delays who received compensation from the tax authority similarly rose 90% to 4,742 last year, up from 2,490 the year before.

HMRC was recently forced to abandon its plan to close its self-assessment helpline for six months after taxpayer uproar. The phone line scandal added to mounting anger over HMRC’s ongoing customer service crisis. HMRC’s own figures showing that average customer wait times for calls had double in the past two years to over 25 minutes**.

Graham Boar, partner at UHY East, says: “HMRC’s customer service crisis is the worst it’s ever been. The poor quality of service is incredibly damaging for individuals and small business.”

“It takes a very long time to get through to anyone – and if you’re lucky enough to reach someone they’re rarely the relevant expert. HMRC is severely under-resourced and needs more funding to deliver the service customers deserve. Complaints are mounting.”

“The new Government needs to properly invest in HMRC and its customer service functions and not just in its tax investigation side.”

How HMRC’s customer service delay are impacting customers

Graham Boar explains that HMRC responses to customer queries are slow and often full of errors. This is costly as well as time-consuming for customers to deal with, which Graham Boar argues is disincentivising customers from trying to resolve issues with the tax authority.

He adds that if represented customers want compensation for the professional costs incurred due to HMRC’s poor customer service they have show invoices and proof of payment as well as proving that those costs were directly caused by delays.

“Successfully getting meaningful compensation from HMRC for a delay is a very admin-intensive process. Many customers simply give up trying to secure the compensation they deserve.”

HMRC is currently under pressure from the National Audit Office and Parliamentary committees due its ongoing customer service crisis.

graph to show the increase in the amount of complaints received by HMRC regarding delays

*Source: HMRC. Year-end: April 4 2023.
*Source: HMRC 2022/23 performance report published in February 2024.

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