08 December 2023

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has confirmed they will restrict the self-assessment helpline to priority queries only from 11 December 2023 until 31 January 2024.

Customers calling with other queries will instead be asked to engage with online self-service methods of resolving queries. The phone lines will therefore be reserved for more complex queries or for those who require further support and those who can’t engage digitally.

Provided examples of queries HMRC feels can be resolved quicker online are:

  • chasing the progress of a self-assessment registration
  • ending a self-assessment registration
  • checking a Unique Taxpayer Reference number

HMRC’s Deputy Chief Executive and Second Permanent Secretary, Angela MacDonald, comments:

“This is a busy time for customers who want to get their taxes sorted. We want to help customers resolve any issues in the quickest and easiest way, which is often through our online services. 

“The vast majority of Self Assessment customers file their returns digitally, so we’re helping them make the next step to resolving simpler queries through our online services. 

“Our expert advisers will be there to help people with urgent and more complicated queries as well as helping the small number who are unable to access our online services.”

As HMRC moves towards a ‘digital-first’ approach we are likely to see more efforts being made to raise awareness of the online services on offer and incentivise their use.

However, this is not the first time HMRC has restricted the phone lines for self-assessment queries, and it came under some criticism for the practice last time. The Treasury Committee heard oral evidence from HMRC representatives on 18 October 2023 regarding the summer shutdown of the hotline with only two days’ notice.

While this restriction is not a complete shutdown, affected companies have still only received four days’ notice, this time around. This is double the amount of notice, but is it enough?

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