Need to get in touch with the taxman? Here are some tips to make contacting HMRC as pain-free as possible.
Getting in contact with HMRC is a task many of us dread.
It's particularly horrendous at the start of the year: with the self-assessment deadline just around the corner (31 January), HMRC will be inundated with queries from people filing a last-minute tax return.
If you need to get hold of the taxman, here are some tips to make the process as pain-free as possible.
Use relevant numbers
HMRC has a variety of different departments with advisors that deal with a range of issues.
So to avoid being passed from pillar to post or getting lost in the menus you can save time by using the relevant number for your query rather than the general contact number.
Here are some of the different numbers for the departments you might need to speak to:
Self-Assessment helpline: 0300 200 3310
Child Benefits helpline: 0300 200 3100
Employer helpline: 0300 200 3200
Income Tax helpline: 0300 200 3300
National Insurance helpline: 0300 200 3500
HMRC online services helpdesk: 0300 200 3600
Online debit and credit card payment support: 0300 200 3601
VAT general enquiries: 0300 200 3700
Tax Credits helpline: 0345 300 3900
You can find more relevant numbers on the contact HMRC page.
Time your call right
The time of day you call HMRC can have a big impact on how long you wait to speak to an agent.
Research by tax investigation insurers PfP found that the best time of day to call was in the morning between 8.30am and 9.30am and early lunchtime between noon and 12.30pm.
Taxpayers waited an average of four and a half minutes to speak to an adviser at these times.
The worst times were between 4.30pm and 5pm when the wait was 12 minutes to speak to an agent. At peak times taxpayers have also reported being cut off.
Use menu shortcuts
One of the major problems with calling HMRC is going through the call centre menus to get through to the correct department.
PleasePress1.com is a website that lists call centre shortcuts. You can use it to get through to a specific department at HMRC that can help with your query without having to listen to the long recorded messages.
HMRC now uses voice recognition on many of its helplines where you say what you want rather than press for menu options. However, many hate the new system as it tends to not pick up what is being said.
However, PleasePress1 says you can get the push button menu by staying silent for 40 seconds and using the shortcuts it lists on its site.
Visit the website
There are some queries that can be dealt with quicker online rather than waiting to talk to an advisor.
For example, if you need to let HMRC know you have changed your name or address or that you think your 2019/20 tax code is wrong there are online forms you can use.
So rather than picking up the phone straight away it might be worth having a look online on the HMRC section of the gov.uk website for information that could help you.
Have a web chat
HMRC has a pilot web chat service that can help you while you are online looking for information.
You just need to enter in a few words describing what you need help with like ‘I have lost my User ID’ and Ruth, HMRC’s virtual assistant will try to help.
This can save you time trawling through the site and get you the link you need to relevant information or sections that may be helpful.
The webchat option is also available on the contact page for certain topics like Tax Credits and Self-Assessment. You can find out if the service is available by checking out the contact HMRC page.
Take to social media
HMRC has a variety of social media channels that allow you to get in touch and keep up to date with new policies and deadlines.
The taxman has various Twitter accounts you could use to get in touch. @HMRCcustomers is a service to help with general queries about HMRC products or services, which is available Monday to Friday 8am to 10pm, Saturday from 8am to 10pm and Sunday between 9am and 10pm.
There’s also @HMRCBusiness, which has agents providing help and information about tax for people setting up or growing their business and can direct you to more help like relevant HMRC webinars
HMRC has an official Facebook page that is regularly updated with useful links and advice. The page is monitored Monday to Friday between 8am and 10pm, Saturday between 8am and10pm, and Sunday from 9am to 10pm.
You can find HMRC on LinkedIn, where it provides updates that may be of interest to the LinkedIn community such as business tax, the latest news on tax policy and advice on running your firm.
HMRC also operates a YouTube channel with a range of video guides that could help answer your questions.
You can use HMRC’s social media channels to answer general queries you have, allowing you to get the help you need without having to wait on the end of the phone.
It is less helpful if you have a specific query that requires sharing personal information. It’s important not to reveal personal information using social media as it appears publicly for everyone to see.
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