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Hanging on the Telephone: 5 reasons Self Assessment customers don’t need to wait on hold

Thursday 30th November, 2023

Nobody enjoys having to wait on hold on the phone just to resolve a simple query – and those completing Self Assessment tax returns no longer need to, with more help and advice than ever before available online.

But many people, unaware of the extent of online support now out there, are still calling instead, often with questions that could be answered via GOV.UK.

Releasing details of the top 5 reasons people call the helpline, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is encouraging everyone to check online when seeking help about their tax return, to get a much quicker and easier result.

HMRC received more than 5.5 million calls to the Self Assessment helpline last year, with 1.2 million calls in the 8 weeks leading up to the 31 January deadline. Around a third of these calls were routine or simple enquiries.

The most common calls to the Self Assessment helpline, which can be checked online are:

  1. Do I need to fill in a tax return?
  2. How do I fill in my online tax return?
  3. How do I check how much tax I owe?
  4. Where’s my Self Assessment tax refund?
  5. What happens if I can’t pay my tax bill?

Using HMRC’s online services means customers can access the information they need to resolve all of these questions quickly and easily – day or night – without the need to call HMRC.

Reason for calling the helplineOnline support
Do I need to fill in a tax return?Customers can use the online tool to check if they need to complete a tax return. They will need to answer a few simple questions and it will help them decide if they need to submit one.
How do I fill in my online tax return?Customers can complete their tax return online using HMRC online services. For help filling in the return follow HMRC’s YouTube videos, and use the helpsheets, notes and forms.
How do I check how much tax I owe?HMRC works this out for customers based on their completed tax return. They can easily check and pay any tax owed via the HMRC app or via the online service.
Where’s my Self Assessment tax refund?Use the where’s my reply tool on GOV.UK to check response times based on how and when the claim was made.
What happens if I can’t pay my tax bill?If customers cannot pay any tax owed in full, they can set up a payment plan, known as a Time to Pay arrangement. Interest will be payable on any outstanding payments after the deadline.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said:

“There is no need to spend time waiting to speak to us. Using our online services for simple queries about your tax return means you can get the help you need quickly. We have a wealth of free resources and support online to help you complete your tax return. Search ‘help with Self Assessment’ on GOV.UK to find out more.”

There is guidance available on GOV.UK to help customers complete their tax return for the 2022 to 2023 tax year ahead of the deadline on 31 January 2024. Anyone completing a tax return for the first time can use HMRC’s step-by-step guide which explains what they need to do.

Research undertaken by HMRC shows that 86% of its individual customers are open to engaging with HMRC digitally in the future. It is quicker and easier and has the additional wider benefit of enabling the department to focus more of its phone support on those with complex queries and those who are vulnerable.

Self Assessment customers can pay any tax owed via the free and secure HMRC app. Since April 2023, almost 100,000 customers have paid £121 million in tax via the app.

If customers cannot pay in full, HMRC wants to help them to find an affordable way to pay the tax they owe. They may be able to set up a Time to Pay arrangement and do this online without speaking to HMRC if they owe less than £30,000.

There is a new affordability assessment in the self-serve Time to Pay online service. Customers will be asked about their income and spending to calculate their disposable income and set up an affordable payment plan for them. 

For a full list of ways to pay any tax owed, visit GOV.UK.  

Customers need to be aware of the risk of falling victim to scams and should never share their HMRC login details with anyone, including a tax agent, if they have one. HMRC scams advice is available on GOV.UK.

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