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My January + HMRC… A Familiar Tale of Time Wasted On Hold.

As many of you will know, I’m not quite an accountant yet. I am (slowly) getting through my ACCA Online courses when I can but this year, I have had the quintessential experience of many UK accountants in January. I have spent most of it on hold to HMRC.

Just to explain, I’m not one of those nightmare clients that leaves tax returns to the last minute. I’ve spent most of this year in dialogue with HMRC over another matter from 5 years ago and I was assured that my tax account was up to date and no need to submit any returns – this was then turned on its head mid-January and I was told that I did need to submit a return for 21/22 tax year.

I am competent enough to do a self-assessment online and was a bit confused about a few amounts that looked identical to the ones that have been raised in previous years and had been taken care of.

So, what ensued, just to try and clarify what should have been a simple query, was multiple calls to HMRC for the most part, spending at least an hour on hold only for the phone system to cut you off or to be put through to the wrong department and having to wait on hold again to speak to the “right” people.

4 different departments all with (somehow) a different view of my tax account, some able to see things, some not. I really do despair about what the state of the CRM system in place there, it must be an absolute disaster!

Anyway, on one lucky occasion after 4 or 5 attempts of being on hold for over an hour, I got through to someone who seemed to be getting somewhere only to be cut off 10 minutes into the call, the frustration is now palpable!

I didn’t get a call back from the agent that was making headway, and only then did I find out that the HMRC agents can’t actually see your phone number when you call in (that CRM and phone system must be pretty bad!). So, another valuable learning point for me is that now when I speak to someone at HMRC I will ensure that they take my number so I can get a call back in the likely event the call is cut off.

Another few days goes past of trying to get through, again with 1hr+ hold times (whilst trying to get on with other work), I got through again and finally had some straight answers on what had happened and how to sort it.

I won’t bore you with the details of what caused it but what really got me thinking was; in an age where we can equate damage to the economy caused by rail and teacher strikes, how much is the UK economy losing through HMRC’s inability to cope with modern demand?

Should we report that the UK has seen a collective loss of 2 million days to the Accountancy sector due to the staff shortage / underfunding at HMRC?

The idea that MTD for ITSA is now delayed for years seems very strange to me given how long it takes to speak to HMRC, the lost time in billable hours to accountants must pale into insignificance compared to the cost of connected software.

Anyway, that’s my January HMRC rant over… if like me, you’ve got better things to be doing than sitting on hold to HMRC, you may be interested in offloading non-billable time sinks away from your billable team members and building in an admin or business support role.

This is something quite a few of our clients do after building out their accounting team with Frontline; Based on what I’ve experienced, the time savings in staying on hold to HMRC alone should make it worth your while!😆

If you’d like more info on what tasks our UK clients have Frontline Admin staff doing, book in a meeting on my Calendly or give me a call on the detail below.

Best of luck with the rest of Self-Assessment season!


Mark M


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