HMRC’s 6 Month Tax Helpline Closure Paused

In a significant shift in its service delivery model, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) announced on 19 March 2024, the closure of its self-assessment helpline for almost six months every year, compelling taxpayers to navigate their enquiries through online channels. This decision, intended to make the best use of resources and improve assistance for complex tax queries, has resulted in mixed responses and raised concerns about accessibility and effectiveness.

HMRC has now announced that it is pausing its plans to close the helpline in response to the feedback and is actively engaging with stakeholders to ensure that all taxpayers’ needs, including those of small businesses, are adequately addressed as HMRC transitions more individuals to online self-service in the long term.


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Closure of HMRC Helpline

HMRC had announced that commencing from 8th April to 30th September annually, HMRC’s self-assessment helpline will be unavailable, leaving taxpayers reliant on digital platforms for assistance. The decision stems from HMRC’s assertion that the majority of helpline calls involve routine or simple enquiries, which can be efficiently addressed through online resources. While the closure aligns with HMRC’s strategy to encourage self-service, concerns linger regarding its impact on taxpayers’ ability to seek timely and accurate guidance.

Navigating HMRC Queries

With the closure of the self-assessment helpline, taxpayers will be directed to utilise HMRC’s online services for enquiries related to self-assessment, PAYE, and VAT. The VAT helpline will operate for a limited duration each month preceding the VAT return deadline. Callers will receive tailored recorded messages, guiding them towards online resources for query resolution. Additionally, HMRC assures the provision of clear information to facilitate a seamless transition to online assistance.

Support Mechanisms for Taxpayers

Recognising the diverse needs of taxpayers, HMRC pledges to allocate additional resources to its webchat and Online Services Helpdesk (OSH). The webchat platform enables individuals to engage with advisors for queries not resolved through online channels, while the OSH caters to customers requiring specialised support due to health or personal reasons. This includes individuals with disabilities, mental health conditions, or unique circumstances necessitating personalised assistance.

Exceptions and Special Considerations

Despite the broad transition to online services, a helpline reserved for Members of Parliament (MPs) remains unaffected, ensuring continued support for parliamentarians managing personal tax queries. HMRC emphasises the importance of this specialised helpline in providing a greater level of protection for individuals based on their identity or job role.

Additionally, HMRC’s decision to allocate “additional resources” to its webchat and OSH reflects its commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable individuals, including those with disabilities, mental health conditions, or personal circumstances necessitating specialised assistance.

Criticism to HMRC’s decision

HMRC’s decision has drawn criticism from various quarters, with concerns raised regarding the readiness of taxpayers to adapt to digital-centric assistance. While HMRC defends its strategy as a cost-effective means to improve service levels, critics argue that the move may exacerbate challenges for individuals grappling with the complexities of the tax system.

Harriett Baldwin, Treasury Select Committee chair, expressed reservations about HMRC’s decision, emphasising the need for evidence demonstrating the readiness of taxpayers to transition to online assistance effectively. Critics assert that HMRC’s customer service record remains a point of contention, urging the tax authority to prioritise accessibility and support for taxpayers navigating the intricacies of the tax system.

The changes to the Self Assessment, VAT and PAYE helplines announced by HMRC will all be paused while HMRC engages with stakeholders. This means the phone lines will remain open between April and September.

Expert HMRC Tax Dispute Lawyers

At LEXLAW, we recognise the importance of navigating tax obligations effectively amidst evolving HMRC procedures. Our team of experienced tax solicitors and barristers is dedicated to providing personalised guidance and support, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and minimising the risk of errors in tax filings. Whether you require clarification on tax laws, assistance with self-assessment submissions, or representation in dealings with HMRC, we offer comprehensive solutions tailored to your needs.

Challenge for Taxpayers

As HMRC implements sweeping changes to its service delivery, taxpayers must familiarise themselves with revised procedures and embrace digital platforms for assistance. While concerns persist regarding accessibility and support for vulnerable individuals, proactive engagement with online resources and specialised assistance channels can facilitate a smoother transition. By partnering with a trusted firm like LEXLAW, taxpayers can navigate these changes confidently, safeguarding their interests and ensuring compliance with tax regulations.

Expert Tax Investigation Lawyers

If you need HMRC Tax Investigation advice, we are available to aid you at every stage of the HMRC investigation process. Members of our legal team have first-hand experience and knowledge of the internal workings of HMRC. We can provide you with the very best representation in negotiations with HMRC and defending all forms of HMRC fraud, tax inquiry, tax fraud investigation, criminal tax evasion and HMRC enquiries and investigations. Our team specialises in successfully challenging HMRC decisions and will assist you in every aspect of the investigation. Our specialist Tax Solicitors and Barristers deliver expert technical knowledge, strong negotiation skills and respected advice, which can make a pronounced difference to eventual tax penalties, charges and liability.

We provide urgent advice and representation to clients from our unique expert team of established Tax and Duties specialist solicitors and barristers with a proven track record of delivering authoritative results. Just call us on 0207 1830 529, or email [email protected].

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