HMRC reverses decision to shut down self-assessment helpline

HMRC has taken a U-turn on closing down its self-assessment helpline between April and September, following backlash

HMRC self-assessment helpline service will not be shut down
(Image credit: Getty Images)

HMRC has scrapped plans to close its self-assessment helpline over the spring and summer amid concerns that taxpayers would be left out in the cold amid new tax changes. 

Within a day of HMRC announcing a halt on its self-assessment telephone helpline between 8 April and 30 September, it is set to backtrack on its decision to give taxpayers more time to sort out their finances instead of being pushed to use online services. 

HMRC’s chief executive Jim Harra said that the pace of the shift to digital services would need to “match the public appetite for managing their tax affairs online. 

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“We’ve listened to the feedback and we’re halting the helpline changes as we recognise more needs to be done to ensure all taxpayers’ needs are met, whilst also encouraging them to transition to online services.”

We look at what HMRC’s latest decision is and how it affects taxpayers. 

 HMRC self-assessment helpline changes reversed 

The taxman was set to close its self-assessment telephone services permanently between April and September, in a huge blow to taxpayers seeking help from HMRC. But after drawing criticism about this potentially huge downer, HMRC decided to backtrack on its decision. 

Critics suggest that the withdrawal of support could have also hit anyone looking for peace of mind about child benefit changes, capital gains tax and council tax hikes, so this is a welcome change. 

Now, the telephone helpline will remain open during those six months, while HMRC will gradually continue to encourage taxpayers to shift towards online service through the HMRC app

Though HMRC is quick to promote its app to taxpayers, boasting 1.2 million customers every month, about 11.5 million customers submitted their self-assessment charges for the financial year 2022-2023. This marks a huge gap between digital users and those who prefer the more traditional route. 

Echoing similar sentiments is Evelyn Partners, wealth manager at Bestinvest, who said that the decision by HMRC to reverse the plan will be a “big relief for those that like to file their tax return early and may encounter glitches along the way, particularly those who are new to the process and prefer to talk to a human”. 

Waiting times on helplines are already long - with the average time for a call to be answered being nearly 25 minutes at the start of this year. On top of this, dealing with taxes can get complicated, and filing tax affairs can stress out those who want to ensure that they are complying with all the rules. 

Partners further added: “Many people still need a helping hand to get to grips with their tax affairs and with every individual’s tax situation slightly different, not having a support line to turn to may have led to more people making errors on their tax return.

“HMRC was banking on all taxpayers being digitally savvy enough to complete their return without a hitch and to deal with web chat. Plus, while some might be able to solve any stumbling blocks themselves through online support services, others might find this medium difficult to navigate and in the end obstructive to getting the answers they needed.” 

 How do I contact HMRC now?  

These changes will affect the self-assessment, VAT and PAYE helplines, essentially taking them back to how they were before. Till then, the taxman will engage with stakeholders, meaning that the helplines won’t shut anything soon and will remain open between April and September. 

However, this doesn’t mean you won’t receive the occasional push from HMRC to switch to their online services. HMRC said that it will continue to encourage customers to “self-serve” and access the 24/7 available HMRC app, and if things go awry with the AI chatbot, you will be directed to HMRC advisers online.  

Bear in mind that if you are struggling to reach out to HMRC as a vulnerable customer, you will receive an alternative number to call. The Agent Helpline will remain open to manage contacts from accountants on behalf of their clients.

If you somehow cannot connect with HMRC through the telephone service, you can reach out to them on Twitter @HMRCcustomers. But bear in mind that this is only for general queries and you shouldn’t share any personal details online. 

For any doubts that you may have which are not on a tight deadline, you may consider writing to HMRC. The post doesn't need to include a street name, city or PO box, and this is the address you should use: 

Self Assessment
HM Revenue and Customs
BX9 1AS
United Kingdom

Oojal Dhanjal

Oojal has a background in consumer journalism and is interested in helping people make the most of their money.
Before joining MoneyWeek, she worked for Look After My Bills, a personal finance website where she covered guides on household bills and money-saving deals.
Her bylines can be found on Newsquest, Voice Wales, DIVA and Sony Music and she has explored subjects ranging from luxury real estate to the cost of living, politics and LGBTQIA+ issues.
Outside of work, Oojal enjoys travelling, going to the movies and learning Spanish with a little green owl.