HMRC will close its VAT and corporation tax (CT) phone lines (with the exception of the bereavement line) on 3,10 and 17 December 2021. Other lines, including the agent dedicated line, PAYE and self assessment and employers are unaffected.
This is intended to allow HMRC to allocate staff to clearing backlogs of post. ICAEW understands that the correspondence that will be tackled is VAT registrations and CT refunds.
Resource planning, including moving staff between different activities, is something that HMRC does on a regular basis but, as far as we are aware, this has not previously meant the closure of helplines.
ICAEW’s Tax Faculty is particularly concerned that the VAT helpline is being closed in the lead-up to the 7 December filing deadline. The closures are in the critical period for filing CT returns for December year-ends.
ICAEW is also concerned the HMRC communication indicates this is a trial and leaves open the possibility that the same approach might be continued beyond this test period when a review is conducted in January. HMRC has assured ICAEW it is open to reversing the decision to close the helpline in the event of unexpected problems.
HMRC has confirmed previous messages that by April 2022, it expects to be delivering normal (pre-pandemic) performance across its core service lines – in terms of the work on hand and turnaround. It is regrettable that to achieve this it needs to take the extreme step of closing helplines.
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