Coronavirus: HMRC’s Business Payment Support Service overwhelmed by queries from businesses

Publications featured in include: The i and Business Matters

  • Evidence shows some callers put on hold for as much as 48 minutes

HMRC’s Business Payment Support Service (BPSS) has been overwhelmed by enquiries from businesses and self-employed individuals impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak.

Despite the Chancellor promising in the Budget that 2,000 extra staff would be made available for the BPSS, there is little evidence that these extra resources have helped the speed at which requests are being dealt with.

Basic research shows those calling the BPSS are being kept on hold for between 40 and 60 minutes and in some cases, even after getting through on the helpline, they are finding themselves speaking to the wrong team at HMRC who cannot assist them with their query.

The BPSS will be crucial for many businesses that are facing significant reductions in their earnings due to the Coronavirus.

If businesses are not able to defer tax payments, they face being wound up by HMRC or spending their dwindling cash reserves to pay tax bills rather than wages or suppliers.

Businesses in the hospitality, travel and retail sectors are likely to become very reliant on the BPSS. New government guidance advising individuals to stay away from pubs, bars and restaurants, as well as stringent social distancing measures means these businesses are being hit hard.

John Sheehan, tax partner at our Letchworth office says: “Businesses are in urgent need of support, with many potentially teetering on the brink of insolvency due to Coronavirus.”

The Government has done the right thing in making the BPSS central to dealing with this. But we have to get the logistics right.”

“The BPSS will not have seen this volume of calls since the financial crisis of 2008 and demand for deferring tax may be higher.”

“Rushing sufficient resources to BPSS and extending Time to Pay Arrangements will buy extra time.”

What is the BPSS?

BPSS offers advice to businesses and self-employed individuals who have concerns about not being able to pay their taxes on time. Under Time to Pay Arrangements offered by the service, businesses may defer payment of tax to avoid cash flow problems. Payments may be made in instalments over an agreed period of time, depending on individual circumstances.