Telephoning HMRC could cost you more

Published on 12 July 2007

The occasions when the taxpayer or tax credit claimant is required to contact HMRC are rising every day, and with fewer and fewer opportunities to pop in to your local Revenue office it means that the phone call is an unavoidable cost. A report from the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) supports LITRG’s appeal for a much fairer deal for the HMRC customer.

The SSAC report quantifies the costs to some of the most vulnerable in our society. It shows that a 45 minute call to an 0845 number can cost as much as £18. With tax credits it is not uncommon for claimants to have to ring several times a month, especially since HMRC now require claimants to notify them of many more changes in circumstances than when tax credits were introduced.

LITRG wants HMRC to provide:

  • freephone numbers to enable those with landlines to make a call without cost;
  • alternative geographic numbers (for example 0207 or 0208) so that mobile phone users can reduce costs;
  • illustrative charges on their literature to warn the customer of the potential costs of telephoning them;
  • a consistent call-back policy with all staff being made aware of the potential costs to customers.

Background

Telephoning HMRC is becoming a necessity for many taxpayers and tax credit claimants. Waiting in a queue for a reply is becoming increasingly common. The result is always increased costs for the HMRC customer.

Not only do HMRC not have 0800 numbers but they do not accurately disclose the costs of their 0845 numbers. Even if they did introduce 0800 numbers it would not solve the cost problem for those who can only afford to have a “pay as you go” mobile phone.

new report from the Social Security Advisory Committee condemns the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) for their telephone policies, but these are relatively enlightened as compared with HMRC. At least the DWP have a range of 0800 numbers for their most needy customers.

In our report on pensioners published in May 2007, we recommended that HMRC review their telephone policy for this group of their customers. Similarly, we have been advocating a more sympathetic policy for tax credit claimants (see our article How much does it cost to ring HMRC).

(12-07-2007)

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