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HMRC home visits – how do you get one?

Published on 21 April 2010

HMRC have a published policy to offer home visits to people who need help but cannot deal adequately with matters by telephone or letter, or get to an Enquiry Centre. However it seems that this service is being denied to eligible customers by some local HMRC offices.

So if you are eligible, how can you access this service?

In previous articles, we have commented on the difficulties of contacting HMRC by telephone for advice (and receiving correct information), the introduction of anappointments system in Enquiry Centres to the detriment of customer service and the increased inaccessibility of face to face contact with HMRC through closure and reduced opening hours of Enquiry Centres.

HMRC’s strategies pushing customers toward telephone helplines and other remote forms of contact such as website ‘self-service’ have been designed with ‘efficiency savings’ in mind. However there are many people who are still ‘digitally excluded’ and cannot access the internet.

In addition, there are some people (for instance carers, those with disabilities, or those living in remote areas without transport) who may need a visiting service in order for them to be able to comply with their tax obligations or to sort out the complexities of a tax credit overpayment.

HMRC’s home visit policy

So what about those who genuinely need face to face help but cannot reasonably be expected to get to an Enquiry Centre? HMRC’s policy is published on their website:

“If HMRC cannot answer your enquiry by telephone or letter and you're unable to visit an Enquiry Centre because you are disabled or elderly, and the Enquiry Centre does not have step-free access, or you have been recently bereaved or have caring responsibilities, you may be able to make an arrangement for HMRC to visit you in your own home. To find out if you can have a home visit, please speak to an adviser on one of HMRC's helplines.”

The helplines to which HMRC refer are not easily found. We suggest that you go theHMRC Contacts page and choose one of the categories which apply to you.

Our concerns

Unfortunately, through our contacts with the other tax charities we are aware of cases where a seemingly reasonable request for a home visit has been denied by HMRC. This perhaps stems from failure by HMRC contact centre staff to understand both people’s needs and the Department’s own policy. But, as we have shown, we do have a clear statement from HMRC that home visits should be offered in deserving cases.

This also reflects the commitments given in the Department’s Charter, which says for example that HMRC will:

  • ‘try to understand your circumstances’; and
  • ‘provide you with information in a way that meets your particular needs’.

So where visits are unreasonably refused, HMRC should be pointed towards their stated policy and ‘Your Charter’ statement.

Whilst we cannot guarantee to respond to individual submissions, LITRG would be interested to hear from visitors to our website who feel that they have been denied a visit where circumstances seem to fit the criteria, so do contact us if you have any such examples.

Contact: Kelly Sizer (Tel: 0844 579 6700 Fax 0844 579 6701)

(21-04-2010)

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