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Sunday tax help lines to stop operating

Sunday tax help lines to stop operating

Contractor accountants might want to let their clients know that HMRC’s Sunday hotlines are set to close down as from the end of November.

The Revenue says that contact centre staff who work on Sundays will be redeployed at peak periods which should bring down waiting times and provide a more efficient service for everybody. HMRC also plans to change the opening times of its contact centres during the week to ensure peak periods are well staffed.

The majority of lines will be open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday and from 9am to 4pm on Saturdays.

A recent survey carried out in Scotland highlighted some of the problems encountered by people trying to communicate with the Revenue. Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants were asked about their experiences and results showed that 43% of HMRC’s systemic errors and shortcomings were due to poor communications. This is a big increase from the 13% reported 18 months ago.

The director of tax at the Institute, Derek Allen, said there has been a drastic deterioration in facilities for contacting the Revenue over the last year. He pointed out that phone calls to the help desks go unanswered and letters sent could lie for months before they get opened.

Allen also remarked that many of the staff do not appear to have adequate training to help them carry out their allotted role and so technical questions relating to tax matters are passed from pillar to post. He believes urgent action should be taken to simplify the tax system.

Other concerns raised by the survey included problems with online filing and long delays before tax repayments are received.

Earlier this month, the National Audit Office published a new report ‘Engaging with Tax Agents’. It suggests that systems could be improved if HMRC and tax agents worked more closely together. In the light of the number of complaints against them, the Revenue may want to consider taking that advice on board.

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Image: Unstable Ground by zigwamp

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