Officials working from home are not to blame for long waiting times on HM Revenue and Custom’s self-assessment helpline, the department has said.
The Treasury Committee asked HMRC earlier this month if it recognised reports that taxpayers calling the department's helpline in early January were being kept on hold for hours before being cut off without speaking to any staff – and what steps it had taken to prevent this from happening. The MPs also asked if the delays were linked to call-centre officials working from home.
Responding in a letter to the committee, HMRC permanent secretary Jim Harra denied staff working patterns were to blame and suggested customers’ actions were instead the reason for long waits. Harra also denied that a technical issue in early December, which led to HMRC suspending several phones, including the self-assessment line, had any bearing on the January wait times.
HMRC launched a review of the resilience of its contact-centre system last month, bringing management consultancy Baringa Partners in to lead the assessment on a three-month contract worth £37,000.
“The root cause of the incident, and the actions required to prevent a recurrence, remain under investigation with the supplier,” Harra said.