HMRC phonelines crash just weeks before Self Assessment deadline

December’s already a stressful time of year for small business owners and the self-employed. You’ve got to plan for the seasonal lulls and spikes, and work out if and when you’ll be working over Christmas – plus the Self Assessment deadline is in January.

The last thing anyone wants when trying to plan ahead is for the HMRC phonelines to go into meltdown, but that’s exactly what happened last week.

Small businesses left unable to contact the taxman

Small businesses were left stranded on 5 December when the HMRC phonelines went down with no explanation. The department was unable to explain why it had happened, or give any indication of when the service would be resumed.

To make matters worse, users also reported having difficulties with the live chat feature on the HMRC website, leaving them with very few options for getting in contact. Many took to social media to vent their frustration.

The phonelines were eventually opened again, but we’re still waiting to hear what caused the fault in the first place, and whether it’s likely to happen again.

Self Assessment deadline looms for small businesses

The deadline for returning paper Self Assessment Tax Returns for the year 2016-17 has already passed, but those filing their return online have until 31 January.

For some businesses, the downtime was an even more pressing issue. Businesses with an annual turnover of £85,000 or more also have to submit VAT returns, which need to be made monthly or quarterly.

With the Self Assessment deadline looming, check out our guide to a stress-free self assessment to help get you on track. With no word from HMRC about why their phonelines went down in the first place, it’s worth getting things ready particularly early this year in case of further technical difficulties.

It’s also worth noting that while this time many found social media a better outlet for expressing their displeasure than gleaning information, you can always tweet @HMRCcustomers with general enquiries.

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