Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Taxman Ignores 20 Million Phone Calls; Cost to Callers Rises to PS136m

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Taxman Ignores 20 Million Phone Calls; Cost to Callers Rises to PS136m

Article excerpt

Byline: James Tapsfield

THE taxman has been condemned for delays in answering phone calls that have cost callers PS136m a year.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said 20 million calls to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) hotlines - many of which are 0845 numbers - were not picked up at all last year.

People who did get through were also waiting longer to speak to an adviser - an average of 282 seconds compared to 107 seconds in 2009/10. In the first quarter of this year, some 6.5 million people were left holding on for longer than 10 minutes.

The NAO found that there had been some progress since thousands more staff were drafted in, with the 74% pick-up rate significantly higher than the 48% recorded in 2010/11.

However, today's report warned that the figures probably underestimated the issue, as calls are counted as answered even if they do not reach an adviser. It also criticised the lack of target times for picking up the phone.

"Depending on the tariff they pay their phone company, customers are charged once their call is connected even if they are held in a queue," the report said. …

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