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.

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  • 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.

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