Fury as taxpayers face fines amid HMRC phone delays - but staff are still allowed to WFH

4 January 2023, 16:31 | Updated: 4 January 2023, 16:32

Taxpayers are being left on hold while trying to complete their tax returns
Taxpayers are being left on hold while trying to complete their tax returns. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Thousands of taxpayers have been left furious as HMRC phone delays risk them facing fines while civil servants continue to work from home.

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People were kept on hold for over an hour on Tuesday as they attempted to get help submitting their tax returns ahead of the January 31 deadline.

Some even claimed they had been disconnected before getting a response.

Those who do not submit their returns before the final day of the month face a fixed penalty of at least £100 - even if they originally had no tax to pay.

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The deadline for tax returns is January 31
The deadline for tax returns is January 31. Picture: Alamy

The HMRC customer support service on Twitter has also been flooded with messages as workers try to submit their documents.

One person said: "Digital assistant transferred me to webchat where adviser said because a CGT issue need to speak on phone but I only ever get 'Your call is important to us...' and am spending hours of my life on hold only to be cut off with 'Thank you for calling - Goodbye.'"

Another person said: "I cannot believe I finally connected to an advisor after 5 attempts over 48 hours and 4 calls that were automatically terminated after 75 minutes of hold to hear the advisor talking and gossiping to a colleague and unable to hear me repeatedly saying hello. Poor."

A third person added: "Hi, I have been trying to speak with HMRC helpline since yesterday but stay on hold for hours. Yesterday i was advised here on twitter to try calling after 4pm. I kept trying but still no luck."

Taxpayers are being held on the phone by HMRC as they try to complete returns
Taxpayers are being held on the phone by HMRC as they try to complete returns. Picture: Alamy

MPs have hit out at the government department for not delivering despite staff still being able to work from home for at least two days a week.

Figures from 2022 showed HMRC has the lowest office occupancy rate of any Whitehall department, with the only exclusion being the Foreign Office.

Chairwoman of the Commons Treasury committee, Harriet Baldwin, said an investigation would be launched after MPs return from Christmas recess.

HMRC told the Telegraph on Tuesday that it had found “no link” between service performance and working from home.

It said customer satisfaction had remained at around 80 per cent and improvements had been made.

More than 12 million taxpayers are expected to file a return for the 2021-22 tax year.

Some 42,500 people chose to see in 2023 by submitting their return on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC's director-general for customer services, said: "There is less than one month for customers to submit their tax returns and my message to those yet to start is: don't delay, do it online.

"HMRC provides lots of useful information to help you get started. Visit gov.uk and search 'self assessment'."

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