AAT calls for investment in HMRC customer support due to concerns over the self-assessment helpline

8 June 2023

Tax return form with image of a part of a calculator on the left and pen on the left on top of the form

AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) has expressed concern after HMRC today (8 June) announced that it will pilot a new seasonal model for its self-assessment helpline to free up more advisers to focus on urgent queries elsewhere. The leading accountancy professional body has called on the government to instead focus on boosting investment in HMRC’s customer services. 

The pilot will begin on 12 June and will involve HMRC redirecting self-assessment queries from the helpline to digital services, including online guidance, digital assistant and webchat, before the helpline reopens on 4 September. The pilot aims to free up 350 advisers (full-time equivalent) to deal with urgent queries on other lines and customer correspondence. 

This resource constraint on HMRC’s customer services was a major reason behind a letter which AAT and nine other professional accountancy bodies wrote to the Chancellor, ahead of the Spring Budget in March 2023, urging the government to prioritise investment in HMRC’s service levels. 

Responding to the announcement, Adam Harper, Director of Professional Standards and Policy, AAT, said: 

“This pilot raises significant concerns about the impact it will have on taxpayers, particularly those who are digitally excluded or who cannot currently access the service they require via digital platforms. The need for such a pilot, in order to redirect staff elsewhere, highlights the much bigger challenge that HMRC faces in balancing competing priorities with a constrained budget. Ultimately, the government must address the root problem that more investment is needed.  

“AAT and other professional accountancy bodies remain concerned that HMRC does not currently have sufficient resources to improve its customer service levels. Although AAT is supportive of the digital agenda, we believe it can only be delivered successfully if HMRC is properly resourced for customer service, providing a strong foundation for effective tax administration. Today’s announcement, therefore, shows the increasingly pressing need for further investment to support HMRC and reverse declining service levels.” 

To read the full text of the letter which AAT and other professional bodies sent to the Chancellor in March, please visit the AAT website.