HMRC chief Jim Harra has confirmed that by the end of 2024, the tax authority will need to reduce its phone helpline volume by almost a third in order to tackle rising demand.
The revelation was made during a Treasury Committee meeting in which Harra, as well as Angela MacDonald, HMRC's deputy chief executive, were questioned by committee members over the tax authority's recent track record.
During the session, Harra highlighted the Revenue's continued push to encourage taxpayers to turn to HMRC's digital channels in the face of reduced resources and revealed that plans were in place to push as many 'customers' as possible to its digital self-service platforms. He also estimated that call volumes would need to fall by around a third in order for HMRC to hit its service targets.
“We are not resourced to deliver our customer service standards through the traditional channels of phone and post which is why you know our strategy is to reduce that contact demand,” Harra said. “We estimate that we need to reduce our contact demand by about 30% by the end of next year, compared with the 2021-22 baseline, to be able to hit our service standards with the reduced resources that we have.”
Harra pointed out that the increasing number of calls to helplines was a key factor in HMRC's decision, arguing that many calls could easily be dealt with online.
“In 22/23, we got 38 million calls, which was three million more than the year before … we effectively have to swim against the current to remove that contact demand. The good news is that we have plenty of evidence that within that contact demand, there is demand that is unnecessary or that can relatively easily be self-served online,” Harra continued.
HMRC have since introduced a feature that allows taxpayers to view their NI confirmation letter online or via the HMRC app, rather than waiting up to 15 days for the tax authority to resend the letter by post.