How do I get help from HMRC with tax and tax credits?

Updated on 21 July 2020

Getting help

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.

Illustration of letter, telephone, mobile phone and email symbols
(c) Shutterstock / niroworld

How do I contact HMRC by telephone?

Telephone is the main channel of customer service for HMRC – they handle millions of calls a year.

HMRC's main helpline numbers are listed on GOV.UK. Most 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.

Be aware of any HMRC phone numbers that you find on the internet – 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 are 0300 or 0345 numbers (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. 0300 and 0345 numbers are generally included in any discount schemes or inclusive call minutes that taxpayers 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 find this stage particularly 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 helpful.
     
  • To give dates, clearly say the date, month and year. For example, ‘twenty first July nineteen eighty nine’ or ‘fourteen zero nine nineteen sixty seven’. 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 preceding 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?

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 helpline adviser ‘I don’t speak English, I need a translator please.’ Note, this phrase should also be recognised by the initial speech recognition system, meaning you should be queued to speak to an adviser from the start.

You may find it convenient to contact HMRC online, using an interpreter or translation tool to help you – more on this below. You can also ask for information in another language using webchat.

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.

You can get online support from HMRC to help you use these services, including via webchat or a virtual assistant.

Webchat covers various areas including:

You can find out more about this in our digital services guide.

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 have launched 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.

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 – we look at an example in our news piece: HMRC tax refund scammers use the coronavirus fears as bait.

HMRC have issued examples of ‘phishing’ emails, letters, text messages, and bogus calls used by fraudsters to get your personal information.

We tell you more about different kinds of online scams on our page protecting yourself online.

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. 
  • A ‘Get help with this page’ function and access to virtual assistant or online webchat service from within your Personal Tax Account.

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
  • 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 us 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 do 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.