It’s now been confirmed that HMRC staff will be permanently diverted away from the self-assessment helpline meaning more blackout periods. What’s the full story?

HMRC’s cuts to frontline services is to continue, following several trials in 2023 when staff were temporarily reallocated elsewhere to help with processing backlogs. The moves were received negatively, with many believed to have felt unable to file their returns in the absence of being able to check technical queries. Today, the government has announced that there will be permanent closure periods going forward, calling last year’s trial “successful”. And it’s not just self-assessment that will be affected. This year:

  • between April and September, the Self-Assessment helpline will be closed and customers will be directed to self-serve through HMRC’s online services
  • between October and March the Self-Assessment helpline will be open to deal with priority queries – customers with queries that can be quickly and easily resolved online will be directed to HMRC’s online services
  • the VAT helpline will be open for five days every month ahead of the deadline for filing VAT returns – outside of this time, customers will be directed to use HMRC’s online services
  • the PAYE helpline will no longer take calls from customers relating to refunds – customers will be directed to use HMRC’s online services.

The CIOT has criticised the move, particularly in light of the Public Accounts Committee’s criticism of the standard of HMRC’s service, calling the move a “blinding light” that HMRC can’t cope.

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