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Tax Tips - November 2017

Hints and tips when contacting HMRC

Contacting HMRC has been changing over the last couple of years. After the loss of the local offices, HMRC improved their telephone service so that - in theory - it is easy to get through to, and speak with, the right department much more quickly; more recently new online options have also become available.

Searching online; 

‘www.gov.uk’, rather than an internet search engine, is the place to go if you need to search for information about any government department or service. All of HMRC’s main contact numbers are available in one place on GOV.UK under ‘www.gov.uk/contact-hmrc’ (Their main number is 0300 200 3300).

It is also worth pointing out that you can also contact HMRC online, for example via your personal tax account which includes the chance to email and use webchat. This may mean that you can bypass the phones altogether! You can register to access your Personal Tax Account on GOV.UK, ‘www.gov.uk/personal-tax-account’.

Hints and tips when contacting HMRC

Contacting HMRC has been changing over the last couple of years. After the loss of the local offices, HMRC improved their telephone service so that - in theory - it is easy to get through to, and speak with, the right department much more quickly; more recently new online options have also become available.

Searching online; 

‘www.gov.uk’, rather than an internet search engine, is the place to go if you need to search for information about any government department or service. All of HMRC’s main contact numbers are available in one place on GOV.UK under ‘www.gov.uk/contact-hmrc’ (Their main number is 0300 200 3300).

It is also worth pointing out that you can also contact HMRC online, for example via your personal tax account which includes the chance to email and use webchat. This may mean that you can bypass the phones altogether! You can register to access your Personal Tax Account on GOV.UK, ‘www.gov.uk/personal-tax-account’.

Contacting by telephone;

Once you have the number you need, you are ready to experience HMRC’s voice recognition system which will help direct you to the correct department; this can sometimes be a frustrating experience and,  although the system works well overall there are still a number of difficulties for users.  

Are you ready for voice recognition?

  • gather details that you may need before you call, such as:  National Insurance number, self-assessment tax reference, employer reference number, the most recent letters you have received, or perhaps any dates you may have started or stopped an income source
  • try to call when there is not too much background noise
  • you will be asked the reason for your call, which you should try and state in a few words, such as tax codes, bereavement  or tax refund
  • during the call you will be offered the website address to look at, where you will find general guidance relating to your query. This is particularly annoying, especially if you have already tried to look online, but there is no way to skip this stage
  • talk at a steady pace, do not rush, shout or speak too slowly. The system has been widely tested on all regional accents so there should not be any need to change the way you normally speak. However, if English is not your first language or you have trouble making yourself understood for another reason, you may find HMRC’s information for those with additional needs helpful, ‘ www.gov.uk/dealing-hmrc-additional-needs’
  • when giving dates, clearly say the date, month and year. For example, ‘twenty-first July nineteen eighty-nine’. Similarly, to say amounts, speak clearly and normally. For example ‘twenty-five pounds and thirty pence’
  • remember, the system will recognise common abbreviations and acronyms. For 'PAYE' both 'p a y e' and 'Pay As You Earn' will be recognised. If your call concerns an actual form then you can name it – P2, P800, SA302 – as the system should recognise these also
  • the system will offer confirmation of what you have said. It will 'ask again' if it is unsure or needs further clarification. If the system is still struggling to pick up what you are saying, it will revert to a push button menu for ease, for example; press 1 for self-assessment, 2 for refunds and so on. The system should always offer you a ‘something else’ option, if none of the categories is appropriate
  • you may also be asked some security questions by the system to verify your identity. This should mean you do not have to do it again when you get through to the adviser

ALWAYS write down the date and time of your call and the name of the adviser you spoke to. It is also wise to note key decisions, actions and any due dates agreed on the call.

This article is by Tax Help for Older People registered charity no 1102276 (Scotland no SC045819), offering free tax advice to older people on incomes below £20,000 a year. The Helpline number is 0845 601 3321 or geographical 01308 488066.

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