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HMRC performance continues to be poor

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Published: 09 Aug 2022 Update History

HMRC’s performance data for April to June 2022 demonstrates that the promised return to normal service levels from April 2022 has not occurred. HMRC is now striking a more pessimistic note on performance recovery.

HMRC’s monthly and quarterly performance reports for April to June 2022 have been published along with a commentary, much of which refers to what happened in 2021/22, rather than the last quarter.

Key statistics include:

  • Average call waiting time increased from about 15 minutes in March to 19 minutes in April before improving to 13 minutes in June. Pre COVID-19 the target was 5 minutes.
  • Percentage of people waiting more than 10 minutes remains at around 60% but was more than 70% in April. The pre COVID-19 target was 15%.
  • Percentage of calls answered: Performance dropped from 71% of calls being answered in March to 66% in April, before improving to 79% in June.
  • Correspondence turnaround: Having improved to 65% in March, the percentage of correspondence turned around within 15 working days has declined each month and was 59% in June.
  • Debt balance: After peaking at £72bn in 2020, HMRC’s debt balance reached its lowest point since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2022 at £38.8bn. Since then, it has increased to just over £42bn at the end of June 2022. HMRC is forecasting that, given the current economic conditions, the debt balance will remain broadly static through 2022/23.
HMRC reduced its stock of correspondence from a peak of 3.3m items in July 2021 to 1.9m (around four weeks’ receipts) by March 2022. However, HMRC has not disclosed how that statistic has changed during April to June 2022.
 
As in its previous update, HMRC attributes the continuing service problems to:
  • Extremely high volumes of repayment claims (90% more than usual), mostly related to working from home expenses;
  • IT issues as it made vital upgrades to improve system security and resilience; and
  • Diversion of resources to urgent priorities including providing support for Ukraine visa processing.

HMRC says: “We expect to see continuing pressure on our services for some time, but we’re maintaining service levels across most areas of our business and we’re focussed on continuing to deliver improvements for our customers in the remaining quarters of the year.”

HMRC helpline opening hours continue to be significantly shorter than before the pandemic.

Members are encouraged to report service issues that are not client specific on HMRC’s agent forum. Emerging issues are with the new VAT registration service and unprocessed self assessment tax returns, including some 2020/21 returns submitted online before the January 2022 deadline.

ICAEW’s Tax Faculty continues to engage with HMRC and other professional bodies on what could be done to improve the experience of taxpayers and agents.

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