HMRC has given the taxpayers only four days’ notice of their intention to trial a ‘seasonal model’ for the Self-Assessment helpline. Phone queries will be redirected to digital services – such as online guidance, digital assistant and webchat from 12 June until 4 September.
The sudden closure decision was taken with no prior consultation and gives taxpayers only four days’ warning.
The “seasonal model” will apparently free up 350 full-time equivalent HMRC advisers to answer calls and taxpayer correspondence in other areas. This will enable the advisers to answer 6,600 calls each day.
HMRC are trying to justify switching off the self-assessment helpline for three months. The reason given is that it receives fewer calls over the summer, with there being 50% more calls between January to April compared with June to August. The need for this pilot, and the decision to redirect staff, underlines the concerns professional bodies raised before the Spring Budget that the government needs to invest in HMRC service levels.