HMRC offer on-line contact facility to more taxpayers who need extra help
More taxpayers who need extra help can now book a face-to-face meeting with HMRC using an on-line form. Anybody who has ‘difficulty using the phone’ can now request specialist help from HMRC in this way, whereas previously only those who were deaf, hard of hearing or with speech impairments could do so.
HMRC’s helplines are the usual way to initiate contact with HMRC. However for many people, the telephone can present a significant barrier in accessing the HMRC services that they need. Those with learning difficulties or mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression or panic disorders may experience problems such as:
- call routing system causing confusion;
- struggling to concentrate for longer calls;
- not being able to find the right words or words coming out jumbled up;
- advisers sticking rigidly to a script/under pressure to complete calls quickly, leading to increased stress or paranoia.
HMRC’s extension of the simple online request form to those with ‘difficulty using the phone’ – which we have confirmed with HMRC includes those with learning disabilities or mental health conditions – is therefore very welcome. But because HMRC are unlikely to publicise the online form, those who are intended to benefit from it may not be aware that it exists – hence this news piece to draw attention to it.
In addition, we worry that taxpayers who are not necessarily intended to benefit from it – for example those who may have difficulty using the phone for reasons like cost or lack of English language, will still struggle to get in touch with HMRC. We hope that HMRC will undertake further work to understand the needs of these vulnerable persons as soon as possible. In the meantime the following information may help such individuals access the services they need:
- LITRG have produced some useful hints and tips on getting in touch with HMRC. This includes information on the best times to call HMRC so that they can get through as quickly as possible and help in swiftly getting through the speech recognition system used to direct callers to the help that they need (sometimes referred to as ITA).
- HMRC offer translation services to those whose first language is not English. For example, they will allow a friend or family member to interpret for customers who do not speak English as a first language. This friend or family member needs to be over 16 years of age and should be present when the call is made to HMRC. HMRC can also offer a free language interpretation service where necessary, however they will require as much notice as possible.
More information about dealing with HMRC if you have additional needs can be found on GOV.UK.