Managing Your Cash Flow

HMRC feels the wrath of Twitter generation

3 min read

09 September 2015

Former editor

Tax collecting organisation HMRC has been the subject of 11,500 negative tweets during the last year, mainly owing to the amount of time people have had to spend on hold.

In a study carried out by Citizens Advice, it was found that a 47-minute average waiting time could be expected before someone would event get to speak to an HMRC representative.

The majority of cases which resulted in complaint tweets to the @HMRCgovuk Twitter handle involved tax credits, which aren’t updated in a change of circumstances unless an individual contacts HRMC directly to discuss. Other issues which wanted clarification include income tax, National Insurance contributions and child benefit.

Contrary to Citizen Advice’s findings, official figures suggest the average waiting time for HMRC contact telephone centre queues were just under 11 minutes in September. However, this was still double the figure recored two years earlier. On top of that, over a third of calls were cut off.

In January, HMRC were mocked for suggesting tweeting may be a quicker way to get queries dealt with. Despite HMRC being a government organisation, the move attracted criticism from MPs – although most in the opposition camp – who labelled it as “laughable”. Now, it appears that taxpayers are taking HMRC up on its suggestion, but to lambast rather than garner information.

The most popular months to complain to HMRC though Twitter were in January, when income self assessments are due, and in June and July, ahead of the tax credit renewal date.

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Citizens Advice CEO Gillian Guy commented: “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.

“There is already a clear demand to be able to speak to HMRC. With the rollout 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.”

Citizens Advice also said that its advisors, acting on behalf of clients, also face long queues for the intermediary line, which is used by the likes of Citizen Advice to make direct contact with HMRC staff.