The number of complaints to HMRC jumped 19% to 6,437 in May, up from 5,410 in the previous month, according to research by UHY Hacker Young.
It also found that wait times on HMRC’s customer helplines have also worsened. The average speed of answer was 14:59 minutes in May, increasing 22% from 12:17 minutes in April and 123% from 6:43 minutes in March.
Sean Glancy, VAT partner in the firm’s London office, said: “HMRC has serious staff shortages in key functions such as customer service as it has had to help introduce emergency support schemes in response to the coronavirus lockdown. These schemes have led to a surge in calls to HMRC from individuals and businesses requiring assistance in relation to support schemes. The number of calls HMRC received rose 18% to 3.2m in May 2020, up from 2.8m in April 2020.”
Some of the common problems that they are witnessing include:
- Delays in receiving tax refunds that are due.
- Delays in HMRC returning calls – sometimes taxpayers are having to have to wait weeks before their calls are returned.
- Lack of technical experts on hand to deal with queries.
Glancy added: “HMRC is under huge pressure and the cracks are starting to show – basic tasks are not being completed.
“In many areas, HMRC simply does not have enough resources to deal with the volume of work it has on. This is particularly obvious when looking at its helplines in recent weeks – average wait times just keep climbing.”
He added: “HMRC is playing a crucial role in administering coronavirus support schemes on top of its normal day job. There is a clear case for increasing the funding HMRC has at its disposal. One option could be to draft in more short-term contractors from the private sector, so that it can effectively carry out its duties during periods of high demand.
“Ultimately, taxpayers could lose out, as they are unable to get the help they need and could end up making mistakes as a result.”