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Updated on 6 April 2024

Tax and tax credits: help from HMRC

If you can't find what you need on GOV.UK or you need to contact HMRC for another reason, there are many different ways to do this, such as telephone, online (including webchat) and by letter. We can't tell you what the best way is to contact HMRC as this will depend on lots of things, but we discuss the various ways below and give you some hints and tips, to help you decide and be ready.

A keyboard with a green coloured key with the word 'HELP' typed on it in white text.
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Contacting HMRC by telephone

All HMRC's helpline numbers and their associated opening hours are listed on GOV.UK(with the main ones being found here). Most of HMRC’s lines usually have quite long opening hours, which sometimes include Saturdays. These are, however, subject to change, so check GOV.UK for the latest information.

Certain times of the day and year are busier than others and you may encounter a queue while the system tries to put you through to an adviser with music whilst on hold. If you can avoid the lunch hour, just after 9am, and the evenings, you may find the waiting time shorter. Note that if you call just before the lines close, you may well get through the voice recognition only to find yourself disconnected.

Most of the helplines have a speech recognition system in place that interprets what you say to direct you to the appropriate help. Before they can deal with your enquiry, either the speech recognition system or an adviser will carry out a security check to confirm you are who you say you are.

  Beware of any HMRC phone numbers that you find on the internet on websites other than GOV.UK. These could belong to expensive call forwarding services.

Before phoning HMRC, we recommend that you:

  • Check with your service provider how much your call will cost – the majority of HMRC helplines begin with 03. This means that you will pay the same amount as a landline call to a 01 or 02 number and the price is the same for calls from mobiles. Such numbers are generally included in any discount schemes or inclusive call minutes that you may have with landline or mobile phone operators.
  • Think about a few words that best describe your question or query. This will help ensure you get through the speech recognition system and to the right person as quickly as possible. Have an alternative ready just in case the system does not pick up your first attempt. For example, ‘SMP’ or ‘maternity pay’ is sufficient. There is no need to say, ‘I am calling to query my entitlement to statutory maternity pay’.
  • Have your National Insurance number, postcode and other key information you may need such as your unique taxpayer reference (UTR) number if you are in self assessment, ready for the security check.
  • Have a pen and paper ready to make a note of the date and time of your call and important details such as what you need to do and by when and what HMRC have said they will do and when they will do it by. You may be offered a web address to jot down where you will find general guidance relating to your query. We know that people might find this annoying, particularly if they have already tried to look online, but there is no way to skip this stage.

During the call:

  • Try to call when there is not too much background noise. Calling from a busy train station or when the television is on for example, could distort the information heard by the speech recognition system.
  • Talk at a steady natural pace, do not rush, shout or speak too slowly. The system has been widely tested on all regional accents so there should not be any need to change the way you normally speak. However, if you have trouble making yourself understood, you may find HMRC’s information for those with additional needs helpful.
  • To give dates, clearly say the date, month and year. For example, ‘twenty first July nineteen eighty nine’. Similarly, to say amounts, speak clearly and normally. For example ‘twenty-five pounds and thirty pence’.
  • The system will recognise common abbreviations and acronyms. For 'PAYE' both 'p.a.y.e.' and 'pay as you earn' will be recognised. If your call concerns an actual form then you can name it (if you know the name) – P2, P800, SA302 – as the system should recognise these also.
  • The system will offer confirmation of what you have said. It will ask again if it is unsure or needs further clarification. If the system is still struggling to pick up what you are saying, it will revert to a push button menu for ease, for example press 1 for self assessment, 2 for refunds and so on. The system should always offer you a ‘something else’ option, if none of the other categories are appropriate.
  • Depending on the nature of your query, you may also be asked some security questions by the system to verify your identity. This should mean you do not have to do it again when you get through to the adviser.
  • Always ask HMRC when you can expect a reply and make a note of it.

After your call, keep notes of any phone calls along with important documents relating to your tax and tax credits. It is particularly important to make a note of the date and time of your call and if you speak to an adviser take their name as calls should be recorded and can be traced back where there is any later dispute.

You can apply for recordings of telephone calls (as well as any other data held by HMRC about you) by lodging a document known as a ‘subject access request’ (SAR) under the data protection rules. A SAR can be made by the online form on the HMRC website. HMRC are required to comply with a SAR request within 40 calendar days. If HMRC delay replying or their response is inadequate, you can contact the Information Commissioner.

If you don’t speak English

HMRC has a dedicated Welsh language helpline.

For other languages, you can get a friend or family member to interpret phone calls to HMRC for you.

They must be over 16 and will need to be in the same room as you when you call HMRC.

HMRC may also be able to organise an interpreter for you.

The process is as follows:

  • Contact the HMRC helpline that you require – the main one is the income tax general enquiry line
  • Navigate the speech recognition system (for more detail on how to do this see below)
  • Inform the HMRC adviser that you don’t speak English (and do not have someone over 16 to support you to act as an interpreter)
  • Tell the HMRC adviser what language you need an interpreter for
  • The rest is handled internally by HMRC.

As explained above, HMRC have a speech recognition system in place that analyses what you say to direct you to the appropriate place. If you need a translator, you should note the following:

  • There will be several broadcast messages at the very beginning of the call explaining a bit about HMRC and giving some information about topical issues. These can take a few minutes during which time you should just remain quiet.
  • The system should start by saying ‘To direct your call to the right place, I’d like to know why you are calling today.’
  • The system should then say ‘Tell me, in a few words, what is the reason for your call.’
  • You should say ‘I need a translator’ – this phrase should be recognised by the system.
  • The system will check that you have said ‘you’d like a translator’ and you should say ‘yes’.
  • It should then ask, ‘are you calling about your own tax’ and you should say ‘yes’.
  • There will then be a broadcast message about trying to get a friend or family member to help you first, but, if you hold on, then you should eventually get transferred to the queue for an adviser.
  • Occasionally the helplines are so busy that you are not transferred to the queue but asked to ring back.

You may find it more convenient to contact HMRC online, using an interpreter or translation tool to help you – more on this below.

If you do not manage to sort the problem out with HMRC, and cannot afford professional advice, then you can contact TaxAid, an independent tax charity.

You can get someone who speaks English to ring the TaxAid helpline for you. You should be in the same room as them when they ring. If you cannot phone their helpline, then you can contact them via anonline form. Again, you could use an interpreter or a translation tool to help you complete the online form.

TaxAid are not able to provide a translator but they can help you to reach HMRC. If you need their support to resolve your issue with HMRC, TaxAid may also be able to offer you an appointment with one of their caseworkers, and you can bring your own translator to that.

If you are looking for information or guidance in another language, please see below.

HMRC guidance in other languages

HMRC do not usually provide information in other languages, although some very basic information in Ukrainian is available from HMRC on GOV.UK.

Some other UK authorities like the Gangmasters Licensing and Abuse Authority (GLAA) produce information for workers about rights and protections in other languages.

There is also information on GOV.UK for Ukrainian nationals.

Getting help from HMRC online

HMRC offer a range of digital services for those who want to deal with their tax or tax credits online. These allow you to carry out transactions online such as file your self assessment tax return or, if you are an employer, manage your PAYE scheme.

See our page on online tax accounts for more information on this.

With more and more government information and services moving online, it is important to understand how to protect your equipment and your personal details and information from theft, loss, attack or damage. See our separate page on protecting yourself online for more information.

HMRC digital assistants and webchat

It is sometimes possible to contact HMRC using their digital assistant and/or webchat facilities. These cover a range of tax matters. You can access these digital assistants/webchats, where available, by clicking on the relevant tax area on the contact HMRC page of GOV.UK.

There are three different versions available, depending on the tax service you are accessing:

  • ‘Digital assistant’ only – this means an automated ‘chatbot’ will provide links to appropriate guidance.
  • Combined digital assistant and webchat - in this case you will start with the automated digital assistant and if you are not able to get the help you need, you then join a queue to speak to a live person on webchat – see further information about using this service below.
  • Live webchat only – this means you will talk to a live person on webchat, without dealing with the automated digital assistant beforehand. This applies to those who wish to access the extra support team.

Digital assistant/web chat functionality may not be available for all tax services.

Using the combined digital assistant and webchat

This service is available for certain major HMRC service areas – notably for self assessment and for general income tax enquiries, so can be a useful way of getting help from HMRC if you prefer to get help online or do not wish to wait for an adviser on the telephone. The service can be accessed using a computer or smartphone. HMRC say almost any task that can be actioned, or query that can be resolved on the phone, can also be sorted via webchat, where available.

To access the service, you first have to go to the relevant contact page on GOV.UK and then click ‘Ask HMRC online’. This will take you to the digital assistant, which is the automated chatbot (not a real person).

You can type in a question there and the digital assistant will try and give you links to GOV.UK guidance pages or provide other instructions in answer to the question you have written. If the answer you get from the digital assistant is not helpful, 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 might only be 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 do manage to speak to an adviser using this service, we recommend you save a copy of your conversation – at the end of the chat you should be given an option to do this, either by printing or saving the chat to your computer or mobile device.

HMRC community forums

HMRC also have online forums where individuals, businesses and employers can post questions on a range of tax topics for HMRC to answer. Anyone can access the customer forums. There are many different ‘rooms’ available – including ones on self assessment, income from property, and expenses. To post a question, you will need to register and create a profile.

There’s also a separate feature, the knowledge base, which contains answers to frequently asked questions on a variety of topics and where you can find information on a number of subjects to help you with your tax affairs. HMRC say that content is regularly updated and new material added.

You may find posting a question in the forum much easier and more convenient than other ways of contacting HMRC, such as phoning them or using their webchat service.

  However, a few words of warning:

  • The responses given by HMRC in the forums may not be comprehensive. It is important to understand that tax law is a complicated area. If you are unsure at all about your situation, you should seek further clarification or ensure you take proper advice based on your circumstances, rather than acting (or failing to act) based on any of HMRC's answers.
  • This is a ‘community’ forum – mostly HMRC post answers but it is possible for anyone to do this. As such, you need to be cautious – you could be easily misled by well-meaning but incorrect information posted by another user.
  • Just as it is important always to write down the details of a phone call with HMRC, you should keep a copy of your Q and A in case it disappears from the forum. You could take a screenshot if necessary – ‘Prt Sc’ (Print Screen) allows you to take a picture of your full screen and then paste it into a Word document for your records. Alternatively, you could just print the page with the question and answer on your printer, if you have one. In terms of taking a print screen on your mobile, this will vary depending on the type of phone that you have. You could try pressing the power and volume-down buttons at the same time, or if you have an iPhone or your device has a home button, try the power and home buttons together. You should then be able to access the screenshot from your photo gallery.

We are interested in your experience of using these facilities. If you would like to share this with us, please contact us.

Contacting HMRC by email

While email communication for the general population is limited, HMRC say that they offer email communication as a reasonable adjustment to disabled customers who require it. We discuss this in our page Help from HMRC if you have additional needs. Often, however, taxpayers prefer not to do this when they are made aware that that this is not a secure method of communication, open to hacking and that HMRC are limited in what information can be included in an e-mail.

Extra help to use HMRC’s online services

If you need extra help to deal with your tax and tax credits online, you can ask for it from any HMRC helpline. Help available includes:

  • Help to get access to a computer and the internet. HMRC may refer you to an organisation or charity that can help you get online.
  • Inputting information on your behalf, or helping you to do this yourself.
  • Arranging a face-to-face visit if you need one.

You can also contact HMRC’s online services helpdesk, who can provide help on the phone or via webchat, with:

  • problems logging into or registering for most HMRC systems (there is also a ‘Get help with this page’ function at the bottom of the relevant pages)
  • error messages you receive when using HMRC systems
  • using HMRC free software and tools
  • problems sending forms online.

Contacting HMRC by letter or form

It is likely to take longer to resolve your enquiry or question if you write to HMRC rather than seek help on the phone or online. If, however, you decide to do this, we recommend that you always:

  • Write to HMRC at the postal address shown on the most recent correspondence received from them. If you don’t have a specific address to write to, you should use the appropriate address from HMRC’s contact pages.
  • Put a clear heading on your letter – for example complaint, tax repayment, calculation query, information request, PAYE coding query – so that HMRC can identify the broad content of the letter and make sure it reaches the right area of the department.
  • Take a copy of any correspondence you send to HMRC and keep it safe for future reference.
  • Though it may cost more, consider using a ‘signed-for’ postal service to ensure safe delivery, especially if there is a deadline to meet or the contents are urgent. You can ask for a free proof of postage from the Post Office but this only proves that you have posted something – it does not prove that HMRC have received or signed for it.
  • Check when you can expect a reply using the HMRC tool.
  • Make sure you know about any key dates or deadlines that you may still have to adhere to while your enquiry is ongoing.

Many forms may now be completed and submitted online. Other forms do not allow you to print off a copy to complete by hand, but make you complete it on screen, before asking you to print it off and post it. Annoyingly, there are sometimes not instructions advising you what information you will need to complete the whole form before you start and you may not be able to save a partially completed form.

Normally, you are likely to need your National Insurance number as well as the information relating to the form you are completing, for example, employment expenses if you are completing the form P87. It makes sense to note down the answers you complete on the form as you go along if it is not clear from the outset that you can save a copy for yourself – and to keep that record safe along with a note of the date you completed the form online/a copy of what you posted to HMRC.

Additional support from HMRC

HMRC have some specific services and access points for those with additional needs, such as a disability, and our page Help from HMRC if you have additional needs covers the help available.

If, instead, you are struggling to deal with your tax or tax credits, need help filing in a form or just feel you need someone to spend a bit of extra time explaining things to you, you may find HMRC's extra support service useful.

HMRC scams

You should be aware that scammers often pretend to be HMRC to try and get money out of people. You should therefore be on the lookout for fake emails, texts, phone calls and so on purporting to be from HMRC.

HMRC have issued examples of ‘phishing’ emails, letters, text messages, and bogus calls used by fraudsters to get your personal information.

HMRC have shared a checklist on GOV.UK which can be used to decide if the contact you have received is a scam. You can use it for phone calls, emails and text messages.

A contact could be a scam if it:

  • Rushes you
  • Has a threatening tone
  • Is unexpected
  • Asks for personal information like bank details
  • Tells you to transfer money
  • Offers a refund, tax rebate or grant

You can find descriptions on GOV.UK of genuine emails, phone calls, letters and text messages recently issued by HMRC to help you decide if a contact is a scam. The lists are organised by subject in alphabetical order. Not every possible HMRC communication is included.

Official guidance on avoiding and reporting internet scams and phishing can be found on GOV.UK, including what to do if you have fallen victim.

We tell you more about different kinds of scams on our page protecting yourself online.

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