HMRC telephone delays are down to ‘unnecessary job cuts’, says NAO

Taxpayers spent a staggering four million hours on hold to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in 2015/16 – and experts are putting the delays down to ‘unnecessary job cuts’.

Job cuts at HMRC have been on the rise in recent years, according to the National Audit Office (NAO), which claims that the tax man has scrapped some 10,800 employees since 2010 – over half of whom were dismissed in the 2014/15 tax year.

Defending HMRC’s cuts, Ruth Owen, director general for customer service claimed that at least 55 per cent of MPs left due to “natural wastage”.

Ms Owen added that many employees were kept within HMRC, but deployed to different areas – and that some 2,400 additional staff had been recruited to make up the shortage.

The average caller typically waited up to 47 minutes on hold to HMRC, recent studies have revealed.

The NAO also found that some 4.2 million callers hung up after waiting for an average of 16 minutes each.

Further defending HMRC’s operations, Ms Owen said: “The reason we lost some staff with skills was down to the footprint of our contact centres. Some were also on older contracts, which meant they did not work evenings and weekends, and those are the periods when increasingly our customers want to be able to contact us.”

“A large number of people phone about tax credits and when the next payment is. At bank holidays we put on a message saying ‘if you expect to be paid on a Monday the payment will actually arrive on the Friday’

“We then consider this call as ‘answered’, as they received the information they phoned up for.”