What is the HMRC Extra Support Service?

Updated on 21 July 2020

Getting help

HMRC offer the ‘Extra Support service’ (previously known as the Needs Enhanced Support service or NES). A small team of specially trained telephone advisers can spend more time with vulnerable individuals and so offer a more personalised service. The team do not follow scripts rigidly. They also join things up with other parts of HMRC, so that you do not have to.

Illustration of a woman in a computer helping people
(c) Shutterstock / Kachka

Tell me more about the Extra Support Service

If you can’t understand what you are being told by HMRC or are struggling to deal with some paperwork or resolve an issue with them, HMRC have a team that is specially trained to deal with vulnerable taxpayers and may be able to help.

Whether this is because of difficulties speaking English, bereavement, a mental health issue, a learning disability, illness, or because an issue has got out of hand and you just don’t know where to turn – HMRC are there to help!

The EST team work on a holistic basis, considering all your affairs and have the ability to join things up with other parts of HMRC so you don’t have to. This means that solving a problem in one area should not leave another issue festering in the background.

How can I contact the Extra Support Service?

There is not a separate phone number for the service. You can access the Extra Support team (EST) via the ordinary HMRC helplines – you should tell the telephone adviser about any special circumstances that may be affecting you on either a temporary or permanent basis, in order that they can put you through to the EST team.

The helpline advisers decide, based on their contact with you, whether they need to hand you over to EST. If so, this should be a warm handover to the EST so that you do not have to explain your circumstances again.

You should not be afraid to ask to be transferred to the EST or to speak to a supervisor or manager if you do not feel the adviser understands what you are saying about your circumstances and needs.

You can also get help from EST using webchat.

The EST can usually hold face-to-face appointments, with advisers based across the whole UK (although this service has been suspended during the coronavirus outbreak). This could include a face to face visit at a specified venue near to home or possibly in your home if you are unable to travel.

Taxpayers can use an online form to arrange a face-to-face appointment if they find it difficult to use a telephone (not limited to those who are deaf, hard of hearing or with speech impairments).

Normally, though, the EST will try to deal with queries over the phone as much as possible.

A typical example of the type of work the Extra Support Team do can be seen by looking at the case of Joyce.

Joyce is a cleaner from Portugal. She has limited English and is unfamiliar with the UK tax system.

With the help of a friend, she registered as self-employed in 2015/16. Her 2015/16 tax return was submitted a few days late – her mother had been taken ill and she was back home in Portugal at the time of the deadline. Joyce submitted her 2016/17 tax return herself, on time – her earnings were below the personal allowance so it was quite simple. Joyce stopped working as a cleaner in 2017/18 but forgot to tell HMRC, so they continued to send her tax returns to complete, all of which are still outstanding. By the time Joyce reaches the Extra Support team, she thinks she owes HMRC nearly £4,000.

The Extra Support team help Joyce make a late filing penalty appeal for the 2015/16 tax year as she had a ‘reasonable excuse’ for not filing her tax return on time. They help her complete her 2017/18 tax return – the tax return for the year of cessation. They withdraw the requirement for her to file the subsequent tax returns as she was not actually self-employed for any of those years – and cancel the late filing penalties associated with those years. Now the amount of Joyce’s debt has been properly quantified, HMRC’s debt management team will discuss with her how it might be paid (more on this below).

Which areas of tax can the Extra Support service offer help with?

  • Income tax and PAYE
  • Self Assessment
  • Tax credits
  • National Insurance
  • Tax debt (see question below)
  • Inheritance Tax
  • Child Benefit
  • VAT
  • Corporation Tax
  • Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)
  • Employers’ queries

⚠️ Please note: HMRC's EST may not be able to help if calculations are needed, if the case is complex/long running, if you are in dispute with HMRC and need independent advice (for example, appealing late filing penalty) or if previous contacts with HMRC have not solved the issue. In these instances, you should seek out professional help, including from the tax charities.

People who need extra help from HMRC because of tax debt

HMRC want to help if you have tax debt that you are struggling to pay. If you feel you need extra support from HMRC with tax debt issues, in the first instance, you should contact the debt management team, using the contact details you have on the letter sent to you or if you haven’t received a letter from debt management yet, the general number for payment problems found on GOV.UK.

Make sure you understand how the debt is made up and that your tax affairs are fully up to date so that HMRC are trying to collect the correct amount of tax. If you do not think the amount of debt is correct and/or you have lots of tax issues outstanding, you should make this very clear to the debt management team.

The debt management team have been given instructions on how to deal with taxpayers who need extra help because of health conditions or vulnerability. You need to explain your personal circumstances to the debt management team so that they can take appropriate action. This might be to try and help you themselves or to pass you to the Extra Support team.

We can see how this might work by continuing the example of Joyce:

Once the Extra Support team have helped bring Joyce’s affairs up to date, the true debt amount is much lower than £4,000 (it is essentially the 2016/17 late filing penalty). Joyce may be able to pay this outright, arrange a payment plan with HMRC’s debt management section, or in rare circumstances ‘remission’.

If necessary, Joyce can ask the debt management section to refer her case back to the Extra Support team so that the special advisers can help her with the ‘payment’ aspects of her case. If the Extra Support team arrange remission of the debt, then Joyce should be aware that this is not the end of the story and her case will be reviewed periodically for any change of circumstances (either by the Extra Support team or the debt management section). 

If HMRC really can’t help and you are on a low income then the two tax charities – Tax Help for Older People and TaxAid, may be able to help in appropriate circumstances.