HMRC apologises for slip in contact centre service

HMRC has apologised after callers were unable to get through to call centres in the days following the Easter weekend, blaming 'extremely high levels of calls' from taxpayers.

It explained the slippage was largely caused by a surge in unexpected calls following a HMRC invitation to query the need to complete self-assessment tax returns.

Scheduled downtime for online VAT returns between the 8 and 11 April may also have contributed to the large number of calls, which will have affected telephone queries from individuals and accountants.

HMRC said: "Being able to get through to our contact centres quickly and with the minimum of delay is central to the quality of service to which we are committed. We are aware that over the last few days the steady improvement in contact centre service since 2010 has slipped. We are determined to reverse that."

350 extra staff were moved across from other duties in HMRC to man telephones in contact centres whilst some callers were left waiting in queues. It also asked all self-assessment trained staff to focus on related calls, moving managers and trainers onto contact centre services also.

HMRC has asked taxpayers with any non-urgent enquiries to defer their call until next week when they are 'confident' the above measures will have resumed normal service.

HMRC responded to Treasury Committee recommendations in September last year in a bid to improve the end-to-end experience for clients, committing to identify the root cause of agent's frustration with telephone services and work together on solutions.

Since the 2005 merger between the Inland Revenue and HMRC, the Treasury Committee report found that the department's total budget had reduced by 14 per cent, with further budget and job cuts planned for the future.