The House of Commons Treasury Committee have taken a close interest in the progress of Making Tax Digita for VAT. MPs have become concerned about the decreasing service levels on some of HMRC’s VAT helplines and new statistics reveal that average call times are increasing.

HMRC's latest VAT call data Jan-May 2019

VAT Helpline

Jan-19

Feb-19

Mar-19

Apr-19

May-19

Average speed of answer

6.57

11.16

12.15

13.4

16.19

No. of calls answered

54,340

46,571

48,031

42,527

44,382

% calls answered in less than 2 minutes

30%

9%

7%

5%

2%

Call lengths

< 5 mins

14%

6%

3%

5%

1%

5-10 mins

20%

15%

14%

12%

6%

10-20 mins

36%

70%

73%

68%

71%

>20 mins

0%

1%

2%

10%

20%

Adviser Attempts **

75,404

76,599

88,319

83,055

106,937

The Committee have called out HMRC on the issue of ‘call termination’. This is where HMRC cuts the call, or where a taxpayer cuts the call and the effect on the official statistics. The call may be cut as soon as it is answered or shortly after or the adviser or taxpayer may terminate it.

The question is whether such calls in fact logged as calls and what effect do they have on the published data? This may particularly influence call answering times when the call is cut as soon as it is answered. The issue was raised in June and HMRC is expected to provide data back to the committee.

Another topic for concern is in direct debits, these have not always been working under the new MTD system and again, taxpayers have been unable to obtain any assistance from HMRC either because calls were not answered or HMRC failed to ring back when that option was requested.

** Comment

We requested more information from HMRC on 'Adviser Attempts' and the response received was as follows:

"The table in question shows the number of calls received and handled by our VAT helpline advisers, and the percentage of those calls answered within specified timeframes. ‘Adviser Attempts’ is the number of calls made to the VAT helpline.

We will not have answered all of these calls; some will have been abandoned or ‘dropped’ before the adviser could answer. While a customer is on hold, we will encourage them to use online services for certain actions. If the customer decides to do this rather than continuing to wait, this is still an ‘Adviser Attempt’, but is not a ‘Call Answered’.

We regret that some customers had long waiting times on the VAT helpline. In March, we doubled the number of people taking VAT helpline calls and we are deploying extra staff to cover peak times. Performance levels are improving and call handling times are reducing; advisors are answering calls below the five minute average speed target."

 

Source

Treasury Select Committee VAT call data

Letter from Policy Correspondence Unit

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