How do I get help from HMRC with tax and tax credits?
If you can't find what you need on GOV.UK or you need to contact HMRC for another reason, there are many different ways to do this, including telephone, online and by letter. We can't tell you what the best way is to contact HMRC as this will depend on lots of things, but we discuss the various ways below and give you some hints and tips, to help you decide and be ready.
How do I contact HMRC by telephone?
All HMRC's helpline numbers and their associated opening hours are listed on GOV.UK (with the main ones being found here). Most of HMRC’s lines usually have quite long opening hours, which sometimes include Saturdays. These are, however, subject to change, so check GOV.UK for the latest information.
Some times of the day and year are busier than others and you may encounter a queue while the system tries to put you through to an adviser with music whilst on hold. In our experience if you can avoid the lunch hour, just after 9am, and the evenings, you may find the waiting time shorter. Note that if you call just before the lines close, you may well get through the voice recognition only to find yourself disconnected.
Most of the helplines have a speech recognition system in place that interprets what you say in order to channel you to the appropriate help. Before they can deal with your enquiry, either the speech recognition system or an adviser will carry out a security check to confirm you are who you say you are.
Beware of any HMRC phone numbers that you find on the internet on websites other than GOV.UK. These could belong to expensive call forwarding services as described in LITRG’s news article Misleading HMRC phone number – are you due a refund? . Although these services are now under greater regulation as we describe in our news piece: Help stamp out expensive call connection services, you should still remain vigilant.
Before phoning HMRC, we recommend that you:
- Check with your service provider how much your call will cost – the majority of HMRC helplines begin with 03. This means that you will pay the same amount as a landline call to a 01 or 02 number and the price is the same for calls from mobiles. Such numbers are generally included in any discount schemes or inclusive call minutes that you may have with landline or mobile phone operators.
- Think about a few words that best describe your question or query. This will help ensure you get through the speech recognition system and to the right person as quickly as possible. Have an alternative ready just in case the system does not pick up your first attempt. For example, ‘SMP’ or ‘Maternity pay’ is sufficient. There is no need to say, ‘I am calling to query my entitlement to statutory maternity pay’.
- Have your National Insurance number, postcode and other key information you may need such as your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number if you are in Self Assessment, ready for the security check.
- Have a pen and paper ready to make a note of the date and time of your call and important details such as what you need to do and by when and what HMRC have said they will do and when they will do it by. You may be offered a web address to jot down where you will find general guidance relating to your query. We know that people might find this annoying, particularly if they have already tried to look online, but there is no way to skip this stage.
During the call:
- Try to call when there is not too much background noise. Calling from a busy train station or when the television is on for example, could distort the information heard by the speech recognition system.
- Talk at a steady natural pace, do not rush, shout or speak too slowly. The system has been widely tested on all regional accents so there should not be any need to change the way you normally speak. However, if you have trouble making yourself understood, you may find HMRC’s information for those with additional needs
- To give dates, clearly say the date, month and year. For example, ‘twenty first July nineteen eighty nine’. Similarly, to say amounts, speak clearly and normally. For example ‘twenty-five pounds and thirty pence’.
- The system will recognise common abbreviations and acronyms. For 'PAYE' both 'p.a.y.e' and 'pay as you earn' will be recognised. If your call concerns an actual form then you can name it – P2, P800, SA302 – as the system should recognise these also.
- The system will offer confirmation of what you have said. It will ask again if it is unsure or needs further clarification. If the system is still struggling to pick up what you are saying, it will revert to a push button menu for ease, for example press 1 for Self Assessment, 2 for refunds and so on. The system should always offer you a ‘something else’ option, if none of the other categories are appropriate.
- Depending on the nature of your query, you may also be asked some security questions by the system to verify your identity. This should mean you do not have to do it again when you get through to the adviser.
- Always ask HMRC when you can expect a reply and make a note of it.
After your call:
Keep notes of any phone calls along with important documents relating to your tax and tax credits. It is particularly important to make a note of the date and time of your call and if you speak to an adviser take their name as calls should be recorded and can be traced back where there is any later dispute. We look at how to get hold of a call recording in our news piece Calling HMRC – do you really need to use a paid recording service?.
What if I don’t speak English?
HMRC has a dedicated Welsh language helpline.
For other languages, you can get a friend or family member to interpret phone calls to HMRC for you.
They must be over 16 and will need to be in the same room as you when you call HMRC.
HMRC may also be able to organise an interpreter for you.
You should tell the relevant helpline adviser ‘I don’t speak English, I need a translator please.’
To get through the initial speech recognition system to get in the queue to speak to a helpline adviser, you should note the following:
- There will be a broadcast message at the very beginning of the call.
- The system will then say ‘Tell me, in a few words, what is the reason for your call.’
- You should say ‘I need a translator’ - this phrase should be recognised by the system.
- The system will check that you have said ‘you’d like a translator’ and you should say ‘yes’.
- It will then ask, ‘are you calling about your own tax’ and you should say ‘yes’.
- There will then be a broadcast message about the first port of call being a friend or family member, but, if you hold on, then you will eventually get transferred you to the queue for an adviser.
You may find it more convenient to contact HMRC online, using an interpreter or translation tool to help you – more on this below.
If you do not manage to sort the problem out with HMRC, and cannot afford professional advice, then you can contact TaxAid, an independent tax charity.
Their number is 0345 120 3779 - you can get someone who speaks English to ring the helpline for you.
If you cannot phone their helpline, then you can contact them via an online form.
Again, you could use an interpreter or a translation tool to help you complete the online form.
TaxAid are not able to provide a translator but they can help you to reach HMRC. TaxAid may also be able to offer you an appointment, and you can bring your own translator to that.
How do I get help from HMRC online?
HMRC offer a range of digital services for those who want to deal with their tax or tax credits online. These allow you to carry out transactions online such as file your Self Assessment tax return or, if you are an employer, manage your PAYE scheme. See our digital services guide for more information.
You can sometimes get online support from HMRC via webchat or a virtual assistant, although HMRC have paused most of their webchat services.
If it is available, webchat can be a useful way of getting an answer to a straightforward question and you can take a screenshot of the question and answer so that you have it to refer to in the future. But remember that tax law changes regularly so if you do not use the advice or guidance immediately, you should check again so that you can rely on it.
Before you start the webchat, think through exactly what question you want to ask and make sure the answer you get covers the precise circumstances you have concerns about. You can always ask a follow-up question.
HMRC also have an online forum where individuals, businesses and employers can post questions on a range of tax topics for HMRC to answer. Our news article: Ask HMRC questions about tax in their new online forum gives some guidance on how to use the service.
With more and more government information and services moving online, it is important to understand how to protect your equipment and your personal details and information from theft, loss, attack or damage. See our separate page Protecting yourself online for more information.
Do HMRC use email?
While email communication for the general population is limited, HMRC say that they offer email communication as a reasonable adjustment to disabled customers who require it. Often, however, taxpayers prefer not to do this when they are made aware that that this is not a secure method of communication, open to hacking and that HMRC are limited in what information can be included in an e-mail.
Extra help to use HMRC’s online services
If you need extra help to deal with your tax and tax credits online, you can ask for it from any HMRC helpline. Help available includes:
- Help to get access to a computer and the internet. HMRC may refer you to an organisation or charity that can help you get online.
- Inputting information on your behalf, or helping you to do this yourself.
- Arranging a face-to-face visit if you need one.
You can also contact HMRC’s Online Services Helpdesk, who can provide help on the phone or via webchat, with:
- problems logging into or registering for most HMRC systems (there is also a ‘Get help with this page’ function at the bottom of the relevant pages)
- error messages you receive when using HMRC systems
- using HMRC free software and tools
- problems sending forms online.
You can find more information about getting help with HMRC's digital services in our digital services guide.
How do I contact HMRC by letter or form?
It is likely to take longer to resolve your enquiry or question if you write to HMRC rather than seek help on the phone or online. If, however, you decide to do this, we recommend that you always:
- Write to HMRC at the postal address shown on the most recent correspondence received from them. If you don’t have a specific address to write to, you should use the appropriate address from HMRC’s contact pages.
- Put a clear heading on your letter – for example complaint, tax repayment, calculation query, information request, PAYE coding query – so that HMRC can identify the broad content of the letter and make sure it reaches the right area of the department.
- Take a copy of any correspondence you send to HMRC and keep it safe for future reference.
- Though it may cost more, consider using a ‘signed-for’ postal service to ensure safe delivery, especially if there is a deadline to meet or the contents are urgent. You can ask for a free proof of postage from the Post Office but this only proves that you have posted something – it does not prove that HMRC have received or signed for it.
- Check when you can expect a reply using the HMRC tool.
- Make sure you know about any key dates or deadlines that you may still have to adhere to while your enquiry is ongoing.
Many forms may now be completed and submitted online. Other forms do not allow you to print off a copy to complete by hand, but make you complete it on screen, before asking you to print it off and post it. Annoyingly, there are sometimes not instructions advising you what information you will need to complete the whole form before you start and you may not be able to save a partially completed form.
Normally you are likely to need your National Insurance number as well as the information relating to the form you are completing, for example, employment expenses if you are completing the form P87. It makes sense to note down the answers you complete on the form as you go along if it is not clear from the outset that you can save a copy for yourself – and to keep that record safe along with a note of the date you completed the form online/a copy of what you posted to HMRC.
How do I get additional support from HMRC?
HMRC have some specific services and access points for those with additional needs, such as a disability, and our page How does HMRC deal with people with additional needs? covers the help available.
If, instead, you are struggling to deal with your tax or tax credits, need help filing in a form or just feel you need someone to spend a bit of extra time explaining things to you, you may find HMRC's Extra Support Service useful.
HMRC have contacted me – is it a scam?
You should be aware that scammers often pretend to be HMRC to try and get money out of people. You should therefore be on the lookout for fake emails, texts, phone calls and so on purporting to be from HMRC.
HMRC have shared a checklist on GOV.UK which can be used to decide if the contact you have received is a scam. You can use it for phone calls, emails and text messages.
A contact could be a scam if it:
- Rushes you
- Has a threatening tone
- Is unexpected
- Asks for personal information like bank details
- Tells you to transfer money
- Offers a refund, tax rebate or grant
You can find descriptions on GOV.UK of genuine emails, phone calls, letters and text messages recently issued by HMRC to help you decide if a contact is a scam. The lists are organised by subject in alphabetical order. Not every possible HMRC communication is included.
Official guidance on avoiding and reporting internet scams and phishing can be found on GOV.UK, including what to do if you have fallen victim.
We tell you more about different kinds of scams on our page protecting yourself online.