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Self Assessment taxpayers could face confusion and delays as HMRC closes its support helpline for the summer months.
The trial closure is set to last from 12 June to 4 September and thousands of people will be redirected to online tools for support instead.
HMRC only gave four days’ notice of the closure, announcing the move on 8 June.
The tax office says it’s testing a new ‘seasonal model’ as fewer people use the service during the summer months.
It will free up 350 advisers to take urgent calls on other lines and answer customer correspondence, HMRC has said.
Self-employed people and small business owners will need to use digital services if they have any queries during this period.
Digital services available include online guidance, a digital assistant, and webchat.
Angela MacDonald, Deputy CEO and Second Permanent Secretary at HMRC, said: “We continually review our services to see how they can best serve the public and we are taking steps to improve them.
“Our online services, including the HMRC app, are quick and easy to use and have been significantly improved. I urge customers to explore these fully before deciding to wait to speak to us on the phone.”
Self Assessment taxpayers who use payment on account to pay their tax bill in instalments could be affected if they need to speak to an adviser. The next payment on account deadline is 31 July.
There are concerns that this could impact the months leading up to the January Self Assessment deadline if the service is busier when the helpline reopens in September.
The Treasury Committee has written to HMRC with questions to understand the impact this will have on taxpayers, and what will happen if the closure has a detrimental effect. She also asks if the closure is to manage staffing issues.
"Given the potentially significant impact closing the self-assessment helpline may have on taxpayers, we’re looking for clarification that HMRC has fully considered the costs and benefits of this decision,” Harriett Baldwin MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee.
She adds: “There are also concerns around the short notice with which this was announced. HMRC must be open, upfront and transparent when making decisions which could impact so many individuals."
HMRC’s website says the line is still open if you need to discuss a bereavement. There’s also an extra support team available for people who can’t use HMRC’s digital services due to a health condition or personal circumstances.
Will the HMRC helpline closure affect you over the next few months? Let us know in the comments below.
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Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.
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