HMRC customer service performance 2018/19

Alongside its annual report and accounts HMRC has published statistics on its customer service performance for quarter 4 (January to March 2019) and for the whole 2018/19 year.

Telephone calls

The average time taken to answer a call increased from 4 minutes 28 seconds for 2017/18 to 5 minutes 14 seconds for 2018/19. HMRC has not met the target of 5 minutes for this measure.

HMRC also has a target for the percentage of calls waiting for more than 10 minutes which is set as not more than 15%. This target was also not met; in 2018/19 almost 20% of callers waited more than 10 minutes as against 15% for 2017/18.

These results should be seen in the context of the total number of call attempts to HMRC which has dropped from 46.7m to 42.7m, a reduction of almost 9%.

The performance on the agent dedicated line for PAYE and self assessment remains considerably better: the speed of answering averages about 6 seconds. Agents do not get priority on other lines. The average waiting time on the employers’ helpline for 2018/19 was 4 minutes 14 seconds and on VAT and other customs and excise helplines was 6 minutes 41 seconds, with a particularly poor performance in March and April 2019 where the average wait time exceeded 10 minutes.


In 2018/19 HMRC handled 77% of post within 15 working days, below both the target of 80% and the 81% performance in 2017/18. We understand that processing of forms such as self assessment returns filed on paper is not included within the target for handling post.

HMRC comments

In the annual report, HMRC commented on this performance as follows:

Our post and telephony performance in the latter half of the year was impacted by a range of factors. We faced challenges in recruiting staff and had to divert staff to prepare for EU exit, making it harder for us to manage high demand on our phone lines, particularly around the Self Assessment and tax credits deadlines. There were also some technical issues with customer credentials, leading to high demand on our online services helpdesk.

We understand that HMRC has been able to recover performance in June and July and is currently meeting the five minutes waiting target. We are also aware that HMRC is considering a number of new measures as the waiting time is seen as a rather crude measure that does not necessarily reflect the whole experience of contacting HMRC.

Comments and feedback

The Tax Faculty would welcome comments from members on HMRC performance and how experiences compare with the above. Please post comments below.

  • I think we should suggest the top 25 managers in the HMRC should have to call up a particular customer help line (via the public number) each day for a fortnight and ask the member of HMRC staff what management could do to help make the service better.  The targets are ludicrous, by the time senior managers have wasted 15, 25, 45 minutes each day waiting to be connected they might understand this.

  • Richard is not the only one who when calling HMRC after going through several minutes of preamble  hears the statement " we are unable to take you call at the moment please  try later".

    I would like to know whether these calls are included in their statistics and which departments they cover. The main culprits are the employers helpline and calls to individual officers.

    HMRC also only make the call backs promised  about 30% of the time and their processing of complaints is woeful.

  • I am sure that I am not the only one who when calling HMRC after going through several minutes of preamble  hears the statement " we are unable to take you call at the moment please  try later".

  • Following on from my earlier post, an example is as follows :- 21/05/19 telecons to HMRC lasting 31 minutes, including a call to the PAYE employer helpline that ended after a 3 minute recorded message with "no one is available to take the call", whereupon I was promptly cut off. 21/05/2019 letter of formal complaint sent to HMRC. 28/06/2019 telecons to HMRC (initial period on hold was 16 minutes) - I asked why my letter of complaint had not been even acknowledged in accordance with CHG615.  Response given was "I will get a manager to call you".  Call received from manager who could only tell me that an e-mail would be sent to the complaints department.  The manager agreed to call me again on 11/07/2019 with an update. 17/07/2019 I telephoned the PAYE helpline again as no call received on 11/07/2019 as promised.  I was informed that my complaint letter dated 21/05/2019 was in the electronic post and had been put in someone's in-tray but as yet had not been actioned (CHG615 specifies that a formal complaint should be acknowledged within 5 working days - by 17 July, 42 working days had elapsed and no acknowledgement received).  I asked for the complaint to be raised from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 complaint.  I was told a manager would telephone me back later in the day or at the latest the next working day. 22/07/2019 a team leader telephoned my office and stated that the complaint would be elevated to Tier 2.  May I further add that this whole scenario has arisen due to an error made by HMRC staff (and pointed out to them at that time) in the setting up of a CIS only scheme in November 2018.

  • I do not understand how HMRC produce their performance report figures as my own personal experience indicates that the HMRC performance levels are far worse than presented by this statistical summary.