Almost half (48%) of customers calling HMRC had to wait for more than 10 minutes to be answered in November, up from 31% the previous month.
This meant the average wait time leapt to 12 minutes 45 seconds in November 2020, up from 9 minutes 42 seconds in October, according to accountancy firm Moore.
The firm blamed under-resourcing in HMRC’s customer service team, and warns that as a result taxpayers could be deterred from seeking assistance, which could lead to them making ‘significant’ mistakes on their tax returns and subsequently receiving penalties for underpaying tax.
Tim Woodgates, an associate at Moore, said: “When HMRC’s customer service levels fall, taxpayers can end up overpaying or underpaying tax. If customer service falls below a certain level, HMRC should consider reallocating some of its compliance staff to helping customers.
“Like all organisations, HMRC is going to face logistical challenges from the pandemic and the lockdown, but we are now well over six months in, which should be enough time to adjust to the situation.”
He added: “The next self-assessment deadline is fast approaching and HMRC’s current performance is unlikely to give taxpayers much reassurance. Nearly half of the 2.4 million customer calls in November had to wait for over 10 minutes to be answered.”
“Ensuring that coronavirus support schemes reach those who need them in a timely manner is extremely important – however, other matters are being pushed aside as a result. If customers do not get the assistance they require, this will only create more problems for HMRC in the long run.”