- Emma Walsh
HMRC ‘pauses’ webchat support for Three Months
Just before Christmas, HMRC informed agents that it's taking most of its webchat support services offline for three months from 4 January.
In a note quoted by the ATT, the tax department wrote: “We are pausing most of our webchat for three months from Tuesday 4 January 2022. We’ll use this pause to fully review our services to make sure we are helping our customers in the most effective way possible.”
The email explained that webchat was effective for simple queries, but “supporting customers with complex queries has proven to be inefficient”. According to HMRC’s analysis, PAYE coding queries took 84% longer to resolve via webchat than over the phone. Child benefit payment queries and VAT registrations took 50% longer.
While it might seem inconsiderate to remove any kind of support mechanism just as the 31 January self-assessment filing deadline nears, tax agents and Accounting WEB members tended to agree with HMRC’s analysis.
Not all HMRC chat services have been suspended, however. The self-assessment digital assistant remains live, with HMRC Twitter support workers directing taxpayers to that page.
Unfortunately, it, too, appears to have a limited grasp of the issues involved:
While the 24-hour self-assessment digital assistant is limited in what it can do, typing “adviser” into the chat box will transfer the user to a human adviser between 8am and 7:30pm (Monday-Saturday). This feature has proved useful for accountants including Clare Beazley: “I have used webchat several times (Corporation Tax, PAYE and IHT) and found it to be the quickest way to get something resolved, once you can actually contact an adviser.”
Fellow Accounting WEB member Latin aid commented on how difficult it was to get through to an adviser, but suggested entering the request as the clock ticks over from 07:59 to 08:00. “Even then you have to be quick, but if you do get an agent, I’ve found them knowledgeable, and they are generally able to action things straight away. Much better than hanging on the phone for hours and then getting someone who doesn’t understand the question.”
As part of HMRC’s customer service review the digital team is working on a new tax agent dashboard to present a high-level service status overview.
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