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HMRC webchat update

Published on 18 January 2022

HMRC will be pausing most of their webchat services for three months from early January 2022 to review the service it is providing.

Illustration of two people talking via a computer screen
Credit: vladwel / Shutterstock.com

HMRC have shared the following update regarding webchat:

HMRC have found that the webchat works best when used for simple queries and to educate about the digital tools available on GOV.UK. Where it is not helpful is longer queries, such as tax coding issues for PAYE customers, where such queries take 84% longer via webchat compared to a phone call.

This Pause will allow HMRC to fully assess and improve the service to help customers in the most effective ways possible. While this is in effect, the following lines will still be available:

How can I contact HMRC while webchat on most lines is paused?

There are a variety of ways to contact HMRC, for example, phone, post or Twitter, depending on which line you need. A list of all 137 lines at HMRC, can be found here. Usually the phone is the quickest way to contact HMRC to deal with queries, however we know that some lines currently have long waiting times.

Most of HMRC’s lines are open from 8am to 6pm weekdays. If you can avoid:

  • the lunch hour,
  • mid morning, and
  • evenings

you should find the waiting time shorter. Try calling before 10am or between say, 2pm and 4pm.

If you call just before the lines close, you may well get through to the queue only to find yourself disconnected.

For some other hints and tips on how to reach HMRC by phone, see our guidance here.

How can I access webchat on the lines that are still open?

On some of the lines, like the Online Services Helpdesk, National Clearance Hub, Imports and Exports and ‘Debt Management’, there is a clear link to the webchat facility from the main ‘Contact’ page (linked to in the list above).

Web chat availability changes throughout the day based on the availability of HMRC advisers. If an advisor is available, you should see a page that looks like this and should click on the link:

HMRC imports and exports webchat screenshot

If an adviser is not available you should see a page like this:

HMRC online services helpdesk webchat screenshot

To access webchat on the Self Assessment and CJRS lines, you first have to ask HMRC’s digital assistant for help. If it cannot help you, you can ask to transfer to an HMRC adviser by typing ‘adviser’ in the box (you may have to try multiple times).

To access webchat on the Extra Support line, you’ll need to go through an eligibility checking process before you can access the webchat. In order to be able to access the webchat HMRC will ask you to confirm:

  • that you are not a tax agent,
  • that you have not been contacted by one of their compliance team (HMRC’s compliance staff conduct checks into people’s tax affairs)
  • that your query is about Child Benefit, PAYE, or Self Assessment
  • and the reason what you feel you need Extra Support (if your circumstances don’t fit neatly into one of the options given, you should pick the nearest one).

You should then see something like this:

HMRC Extra Support team screenshot

If you cannot use webchat to access the Extra Support team, either because your query doesn’t not fall into one of the three categories or for any other reason, you should follow our guidance on how to contact the Extra Support Team here.

Final thought

We know many people find webchat much easier and more convenient than phoning. It is also potentially a great benefit for deaf and hearing impaired people, those with speech impairments and for some people with mental health conditions where using the phone can cause great anxiety.

We will be feeding these thoughts back to HMRC for consideration before any final decision is made by them as to the future of webchat. If you have any thoughts to share about whether webchat is useful for you, please sent comments via our contact us page. Although we can’t give individual advice, we are always interested to hear people’s experiences of the tax system to help us with our work.

Contact: Meredith McCammond (click here to Contact Us)
First published: 18/01/22

 

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