20m calls go unanswered at HMRC

A report from the National Audit Office has revealed that 20million calls went unanswered by HM Revenue & Customs in 2011/12 with callers incurring £33m of charges whilst on hold.

Despite improvements in service levels since 2010, the report’s findings prompted the NAO to brand the service ‘poor value for money’.

Callers who got through to the taxman had to wait on average 282 seconds before speaking to an adviser and between April and September 2011 6.5million callers were on hold for more than ten minutes.

The high call charges incurred by those on hold were due to the fact that most of HMRC’s contact numbers have the high-charge 0845 prefix.  However, HMRC are investigating alternatives to make calls cheaper for customers including the introduction of an 03 prefix to save callers £13m per year.

Whilst HMRC have acknowledged it’s current service levels are unacceptable, it faces a challenging decsions about whether it should try to meet the service performance standards of a commercial organisation.

Head of the NAO Amyas Morse advised that meeting such standards would require “spending significantly more money or becoming substantially more cost effective.”

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