Frustrated callers tweeted HMRC over 11,500 times in the last 12 months to complain about long telephone line queues, according to an analysis of the social media platform by Citizens Advice.
While official figures show an average wait of 10 minutes, the charity’s study suggests that many people are waiting much longer – with people who complain via HMRC’s Twitter page spending an average of 47 minutes on hold.
A statement from Citizens Advice reports that one person tweeted they had tried to get through to HMRC on four occasions – waiting an hour each time.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: ‘People are paying the price for not getting through to HMRC. From fines for not completing a tax return in time to under or overpayments for tax credits, people can be left out of pocket because they cannot speak to HMRC on the phone.
‘We have consistently raised this issue with the Government. But evidence from across the Citizens Advice service, and our new research, shows HMRC is still failing to provide a timely service. There is already a clear demand to be able to speak to HMRC. With the roll-out of Universal Credit and big changes to tax credits just around the corner this is only going to grow. HMRC needs to urgently address the problems many people are experiencing with phone lines.’
However, Lin Homer, HMRC’s chief executive, has defended the department’s phone record, telling MPs: ‘I don’t think the overall trend is worsening… We aren’t answering enough calls within five minutes, but we are now doing more ‘once and done’ calls, meaning that taxpayers only needed to phone once.’
HMRC has also called the Citizen’s Advice survey ‘unscientific’ and ‘out of date’.
The department has already had to apologise for its telephone service this year, after figures released in June showed that a quarter of calls went unanswered.