On Hold and In the Cold
Having trouble contacting HMRC about Tax Credits?
We are collecting evidence of the problems people have trying to get through. Please take a few minutes to complete our short survey.
If you still need to get through to HMRC and are having trouble, you could:
- Try calling early morning: 8:00am – 9:00am
- Consider writing instead
- From May to July, you may be able to renew your award online
- Make a complaint: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/complain-to-hm-revenue-and-customs
If you are still having difficulties you can contact Citizens Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) using the web chat service when available, or phone 03444 111 444 to contact your local Citizens Advice office.
Why we are researching and campaigning on this issue
HMRC’s Tax Credit system depends on clients giving them up-to-date information on their earnings. However people often have to wait to get through on the phone, sometimes for more than an hour, which makes contacting HMRC expensive, distressing and when calls are cut off, a terrible waste of time. Failing to get through fast can have very serious effects. If a client does not respond to an information request within 30 days, their case is switched to an automated procedure, and eventually passed for enforcement by private debt collectors.
Citizens Advice Plymouth are campaigning to keep this issue in the media and gathering information from an online survey for all users of HMRC’s phone lines: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HMRCphoneline
We will use the results to make sure the public and advisers in the charity sector are kept properly prepared to tackle this communication barrier in the right ways. We must keep up the pressure on HMRC to give its customer service the priority it must have to ensure Tax Credits are properly administered.
The problems we are aware of
HMRC’s customer service appears to be in crisis. HMRC employed one thousand extra staff in September 2015, but sacked 1,300 in January 2016 and announced that 281 call centres will be closed. Repeated government reports have highlighted HMRC’s appalling record for call waiting times on all its services, and the head of HMRC is leaving her post this April pursued by heavy criticism for ongoing failings.
All hopes for a solution appear to have been placed on computerised administration, but with online services presently restricted to only a few Tax Credit clients’ annual renewal of their claims each July, there is little comfort for the millions trying to manage their claims on the phone. In fact, HMRC’s decision to rely on technology suggests worse chaos lies ahead. In the midst of all this uncertainty, they are in the process of gradually leaving one computer system run by a private company and introducing another that they have yet to identify.
The clash between HMRCs role in gathering revenue and handing it out is the source of the problem and will disappear when administration of all welfare benefits transfers over to the DWP. But as the last Tax Credit claims are not projected to change over to Universal Credit until 2020, there are still four years ahead when clients in low income employment must spend their scarce time and money trying to get through to a service they depend on for a reasonable quality of life.
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