Tax Office Delays “Hurting the Economy”

In recent times, the UK’s tax system has been making headlines, but not for the best reasons. Delays at the tax office are causing a great deal of concern, both for individuals and the economy at large, as The Telegraph reports

Tax Office Delays: More than Just a Wait

According to accountancy professionals, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the UK’s chief tax-collecting body, is experiencing chronic delays that are doing more than just frustrating callers – they’re hindering the UK’s economic growth.

Trade bodies representing accountants have labelled customer service at HMRC as hitting a “new low.” This isn’t just a matter of not picking up the phone quickly; it signifies deeper operational issues. The prolonged phone waiting times and backlog in postal services are causing significant disruptions for businesses and individuals alike.

The Real-World Impact of these Delays

Gary Ashford, president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, succinctly highlighted the broader economic consequences of these HMRC hiccups. While it’s easy to think of these issues as merely bureaucratic, their ripple effects can be profoundly felt.

“Businesses can’t trade effectively, ordinary people are waiting endlessly for vital repayments, and expenses rise as they consistently pursue HMRC for updates,” said Ashford.

These sentiments aren’t standalone. Michael Izza, the chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), echoes similar concerns. He highlights that tax agents, who are crucial in ensuring the smooth functioning of the tax system, are being held back by these delays. When they can’t operate efficiently, it’s the UK economy that bears the brunt.

Dwindling Confidence in HMRC’s Services

Recent moves by HMRC have further exacerbated these frustrations. For instance, HMRC announced the removal of its ten-minute waiting time goal on its agent helpline, even though current wait times hover around a staggering 20 minutes.

Furthermore, the quality of HMRC’s online services has raised eyebrows. Many members of the ICAEW have found themselves relying more on phone lines and traditional written communication due to inadequacies in online provisions.

“To reinstate trust and adapt to modern needs, we’re advocating for a comprehensive review aimed at bolstering services and accelerating digital adoption,” Mr Izza pointed out.

And it seems he’s not alone in his worries. A survey from the Chartered Institute of Taxation disclosed that a whopping 94% of its members expressed dissatisfaction with HMRC’s service quality. Additionally, 95% remarked that these service flaws had hampered their business operations.

Addressing the Backlog and the Way Forward

It’s evident that HMRC is feeling the pressure. Last summer, they shut down their self-assessment helpline to address a mounting pile of postal queries. A special taskforce was even established to handle over 37,000 pieces of correspondence that were collecting dust for nearly a year.

There’s also been scrutiny over HMRC’s staffing decisions during the pandemic, with almost two in five employees from regional centres working remotely throughout the year leading up to this past March. However, HMRC has defended its stance on this matter, claiming remote working hasn’t impacted their phone response capabilities.

HMRC has also been promoting its improved online services, urging customers to opt for digital methods before resorting to calls or emails. As an HMRC representative stated, efforts are being redirected to enable advisers to assist those who genuinely require personal support. Encouraging the use of online services is central to this strategy.


While the role of digital in streamlining services is undeniable, it’s crucial for HMRC to balance technological advancements with genuine human touchpoints that ensure accuracy, trust, and efficient service. With accountants and businesses sounding the alarm on service delays, the path forward for HMRC is clear: reassess, adapt, and deliver more efficiently for the health of the UK economy.