Where to get Self Assessment help while the phoneline is closed
HMRC have recently announced that they will NOT be answering any telephone calls to their Self Assessment helpline (0300 200 3310) between 12 June and 3 September 2023. The helpline will re-open on 4 September this year so taxpayers will be able to speak to an adviser prior to the deadlines for filing 2022/23 Self Assessment tax returns. Here we tell you what the alternatives are to get help with any queries relating to Self Assessment in the meantime.
Please note: this article was updated on 30 June 2023 to reflect some changes HMRC have implemented following discussions we have had with them.
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Closure of the Self Assessment helpline
HMRC made an initial announcement on 9 June 2023 advising that they will not be answering any telephone calls on their Self Assessment helpline over the summer period in order to trial directing Self Assessment queries from the helpline to their digital services, including its online guidance, digital assistant and webchat. Information we have received from HMRC is that:
If an individual phones the Self Assessment helpline during the pilot, after navigating a series of automated questions, they will hear a telephone message. This will inform them the helpline is closed and when it will reopen, direct them to digital services where appropriate and direct them to the Online Services Helpdesk if they need extra support due to a health condition, disability or their personal circumstances make it difficult for them to manage their tax.
The only exception is for individuals calling in relation to a bereavement – they will be connected with an advisor in HMRC’s Bereavement team. (LITRG note: you must say clearly something like ‘Bereavement or’ ‘Someone has died’ to the voice recognition system to get put through to the Bereavement team.)
HMRC say that if an individual is digitally excluded or qualifies for extra support, they will refer them to the Extra Support Team following their usual processes. (LITRG note – see section below on how to contact the Extra Support Team.)
How can I contact HMRC with a query relating to Self Assessment while the phoneline is closed?
HMRC say almost any task that can be actioned, or query that can be resolved on the phone, can also be sorted via webchat.
Self Assessment webchat is currently open from 8.00am to 7.30pm Monday to Friday and 8.00am to 4pm on Saturday.
To access webchat for Self Assessment, you first have to ask HMRC’s digital assistant for help by clicking on ‘Ask HMRC online’. If it cannot help you, you can ask the digital assistant to transfer you to an HMRC webchat adviser by typing ‘I’d like to speak to an adviser’ in the box. The ability to access webchat is not always obvious from the digital assistant as at the end of the chat you are usually only given the option of ending the chat or asking another question. Webchat availability changes throughout the day based on the availability of HMRC advisers. You may have to try multiple times. If an adviser is available, you may need to wait in a queue.
If you can’t use the internet or do not have access to it yourself or via friends, family or a local digital support service etc., then you will not be able to use webchat. See our section below on accessing the Extra Support Team instead.
How can I access the phonelines that are still open?
Some of the phonelines that may be useful for Self Assessment taxpayers remain open.
Online Services Helpdesk – to get technical support to use HMRC’s online services, or if you cannot use digital services due to a health condition, disability or your personal circumstances make it difficult. You can find out more on GOV.UK.
Payment problems phonelines: if you need to speak to an adviser about problems paying Self Assessment (there is one phoneline if you can’t pay a forthcoming bill and one phoneline if you have already missed a payment). If you need help with Payments on Account, see below.
Self Assessment forms order line – Paper tax return forms, for those that don’t file online, continue to be available from this phoneline.
Self-employed income tax – if you’re self-employed and have an Income Tax enquiry or need to report changes to your personal details. (Note, this is just the general Income Tax helpline.)
Construction Industry Scheme – if you are a subcontractor and need your pay and tax details, for example.
Also note, the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL) is unaffected by this change, so agents can still call HMRC.
Most of HMRC’s lines are open from 8am to 6pm weekdays. If you can avoid:
the lunch hour,
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.
Where can I get urgent help with…?
HMRC say the Self Assessment helpline receives far fewer calls over the summer, however we know that during the summer months people may need specific help with the following:
Payments on Account
The second Payment on Account for the 2023/24 tax year becomes due on the 31 July 2023. If you want to reduce your Payment on Account you should read our guidance, which tells you what to do. If you think you will have problems paying it and so would like to discuss the possibility of paying in instalments or any other options, you should call HMRC’s Payment problems phoneline.
Chasing a refund
People who are owed a refund sometimes like to get their tax returns in nice and early so that they can get their refund. If you are waiting on your tax refund, please be aware that sometimes repayments are delayed when HMRC perform additional security checks. This can mean waiting around eight weeks for your repayment. It is possible to check the status of your tax refund in your HMRC online services account and also on this tool on GOV.UK. If the date shown in the tool has gone by then you should ask the HMRC digital assistant to speak to an adviser (see above).
Appealing a penalty
It is around this time of year when late filing penalties for outstanding tax returns relating to the 2021/22 tax year start to ramp up because of the £10 daily penalties. If HMRC have issued late filing penalties to you, you should check whether you have a ‘reasonable excuse’ for not filing your tax return on time. If you do, you should appeal the late filing penalties. You can appeal using an HMRC form or you can just write your own letter of appeal (you should make sure it is clearly labelled as such). There is usually a 30 day time limit for appealing, so you should not wait for the phoneline to reopen before taking action. If you need more information, you should see our guidance. If you need help to make an appeal, see our getting help page.
A determination/assessment/other notice
HMRC usually have to send these out within a certain number of years from the end of the tax year to which they relate and so there can be a flurry of activity just before the end of the tax year with HMRC issuing these types of notices before they are out of time to do so. This means, around about now, some people may be trying to work out how to respond if they have received one of these notices. These notices are usually quite serious so we suggest you should seek professional advice. See our getting help page for more details, including on how to get free tax advice if you are on a low income from the charities TaxAid or Tax Help for Older People. (Agents and the tax charities can still access HMRC.)
Withdrawing a tax return
You may have realised that you don’t need to submit a tax return for 2022/23 because you no longer meet the Self Assessment criteria. In this situation, you can ask HMRC to withdraw the tax return rather than complete it. HMRC say you can do this by webchat now or you could wait until the helpline reopens (you actually have a long timeframe to make the request). If you aren’t sure if you can withdraw it, you should read our detailed guidance on the Self Assessment criteria here and here.
How can I access the Extra Support Team?
If you need extra support, you can get a phone or video appointment with the Extra Support Team, and exceptionally a face-to-face appointment. You can ask to speak to an Extra Support Team advisor via the dedicated extra support webchat service. You can read about the work of the Extra Support Team in our guidance.
To access the dedicated extra support webchat, 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 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:
If you cannot use webchat to access the Extra Support Team, either because your query does not fall into one of the categories or for any other reason, HMRC say you can call their Online Services Helpdesk and you should select option 2 for Self Assessment’.
The problem with this is that there are a couple more stages where you need to choose an option once you have chosen option 2 as per HMRC’s guidance above, some of which are quite confusing. However, for the time being, if you are unsure which option to choose we suggest you do not pick any option at all and this should mean you should eventually get transferred to the queue for an adviser. When you get through, you should explain to them that you want to speak to the Extra Support Team.
We are very concerned about the sudden closure of the Self Assessment helpline. Our press release can be found here. We will be feeding some thoughts back to HMRC for consideration. Please send any comments you may have on this trial 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 and discussions with HMRC.