Following a trial, HMRC will now be temporarily closing the VAT and corporation tax phonelines on several days across February and March to help the tax authority deal with a covid post backlog
Over the trial closure between December and January, on average, HMRC cleared more than 4,000 additional pieces of post each day during the test and learn. This resulted in an increased productivity rate among colleagues, above its initial planning assumptions, as staff were able to focus on the task without stopping mid-way through to take a phone call.
There was an increase in telephony contact on Monday’s following the Friday closures, with an estimated 2,500 extra calls over the three Mondays (using November as a comparator). HMRC said it was ‘able to offer an acceptable level of service to these customers despite the additional demand’.
HMRC has sent out communications to tax agents and accountants advising them of the planned closures which will affect phone lines until the end of March.
An HMRC spokesperson said: ‘We are temporarily closing two specialist phonelines on Fridays so we can work through our stocks of post more quickly to help us return to pre-pandemic service levels in these critical areas of work.
‘Temporarily closing these two phonelines was trialled in December and helped us clear more than 4,000 extra pieces of post on each day they were closed.
‘We understand the frustrations of customers and agents who are waiting for HMRC to get to their individual enquiry, we’re sorry that we can’t get to everyone more quickly and thank them for bearing with us.’
Following the success of the December test and learn, the corporation tax and VAT telephony lines will see a further telephony shuttering exercise on Fridays in February and March 2022:
- Corporation tax – 25 February to 25 March 2022; and
- VAT (excluding bereavement) – 25 February to 25 March 2022 (excluding 4 March).
HMRC said it had listened to feedback from stakeholders and has selected these dates to avoid key events on these lines, including the VAT peak.
Based on current plans, HMRC expects to see a significant improvement in service levels in these critical areas.