HMRC "missed 20 million calls" this year

"Poor value for money".

20 per cent of calls unanswered. Photograph: Getty Images

HMRC is still giving “poor value for money for customers” in terms of its phone service, costing callers millions of pounds and leaving more more than 20 per cent of calls unanswered.

A critical report from the National Audit Office has said that a massive 20 million calls did not get through in 2011/12.

Throughout the year, HMRC answered 74 per cent of phone calls, against an interim target of 58 per cent. The NAO recognizes that the Revenue has “restored customer service levels from a low point in 2010”, but criticises the level of service as “nevertheless low.”

The spending watchdog notes that callers had to wait an average of 282 seconds to speak to an advisor on the phone in 2011-12 who got through to HMRC in the last year, and between April and September, 6.5m waited more than ten minutes to have their calls answered.

The NAO notes that calls are charged from when they are connected – even if they are waiting in a queue – and estimates £33m in call charges were racked up throughout the last year.

The estimated value of callers’ time while in the queue is also estimated to be £103m.

In August HMRC announced that it would be employing an extra 2,500 temporary staff and enhancing phone technology to improve productivity. 

It also follows a series of attempts to improve the phone systems and call centre set-up for the Revenue, which receives more than 60m calls per year. HMRC is also investigating alternatives to its 0845 numbers, which result in high call charges.