HMRC has moved several of its helplines from 0845 numbers to cheaper 03 numbers, with the full switch due to be complete by the end of summer.
The migration did not come soon enough for the new tax year, however, when the mass roll-out of real time information for PAYE started after HMRC’s spring software upgrade.
Taxpayers and advisers attempting to file RTI returns for the first time swamped the tax department’s helplines. AccountingWEB’s Any Answers page saw a surge in queries and complaints about the Revenue’s phone lines, particularly on Monday 7 April, when HMRC staff staged a half-day strike. But the lengthy waits continued throughout the following week.
In many cases, callers reported they could not get through and were advised by recorded messages to ring back later. Other members raised concerns about the high cost of the 0845 numbers as they were forced to spend lengthy periods on hold.
The tax credits helpline has been an 0300 number since the start of 2013. In the latest development, HMRC has moved the following helplines to the new prefix:
- Child benefit helpline: 0300 200 3100
- Guardian’s allowance helpline: 0300 200 3101
- Online services helpdesk: 0300 200 3600
- BillPay plus: 0300 200 3601
- Employer helpline: 0300 200 3200
- New employer helpline: 0300 200 3211
“For most people, the new numbers will reduce the cost of calling these helplines. You can check the exact cost by calling your telephone service provider,” the department said.
The 0845 numbers will remain active for another 18 months alongside the new lines, with recorded messages explaining the switch.
An HMRC spokesperson said of the switch: “We want customers to be able to access our services at the lowest cost possible. For most customers, a 0300 number is cheaper to call than a 0845 number.
“All lines will be moved by the end of the summer.”
Following a grilling from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in January, the Revenue revealed that current provider Cable & Wireless made close to £1m in profit from HMRC helpline calls.
At January’s PAC meeting, HMRC reported the calls cost people 41p a minute, with some people waiting for more than 10mins.
The costs of the calls, alongside lengthy waiting times impacted by a recent strike and the volume of calls the Revenue is receiving regarding RTI, has been grating on AccountingWEB members’ nerves.
“I’ve just hung up after waiting 30 minutes on the PAYE line. I don’t mind too much about the wait, that aborted call cost me £6,” said Tkwhitehouse.
Carolynne agreed: “I too am fed up having to dial 0845 numbers from my mobile which cost far more than using a landline, when I am out and about.”
Other members chimed in. “I recently looked into why my bills had been going over. Last month, the bill was over £60. The answer was, calls to HMRC as 0845 numbers aren’t included in my package,” said Manchester_man, commenting on a different thread.
JKeep also posted, seeking an 01 number for the HMRC’s agents line as his bill had “gone sky high” from calling the 0845 version.