Now the finance officer is a text man as HMRC unveils a scheme to cut waiting times

Now the finance officer is a text man as HMRC unveils a scheme to cut wait times by responding to calls with a mobile message

  • Routine calls to the tax office are answered by SMS
  • This is in lieu of a human trying to reduce hotline wait times
  • Bosses say this will free up advisors to help those with more complex questions
  • HMRC expects 170,000 calls with simple questions this month as December 31

Routine calls to the tax office are answered by SMS instead of a human being in order to shorten waiting times on the hotlines.

In a lawsuit against HM Revenue and Customs, taxpayers seeking help with problems like resetting a password will receive text pointing to online services.

Bosses say this will free up advisors to help those with more complex questions over the phone. However, experts warn that scammers could try to abuse the system by sending fake texts.

HMRC expects 170,000 calls this month with simple questions as the self-assessment deadline of 31 January approaches.

Routine calls to the tax office are answered by SMS instead of a human being in order to shorten waiting times on the hotlines. In a lawsuit against HM Revenue and Customs, taxpayers seeking help with problems like resetting a password will receive text pointing to online services

Routine calls to the tax office are answered by SMS instead of a human being in order to shorten waiting times on the hotlines. In a lawsuit against HM Revenue and Customs, taxpayers seeking help with problems like resetting a password will receive text pointing to online services

Bosses say this will free up advisors to help those with more complex questions over the phone. However, experts warn that scammers could try to abuse the system by sending fake texts. HMRC expects 170,000 calls this month with simple questions as the self-assessment deadline of 31 January approaches

Bosses say this will free up advisors to help those with more complex questions over the phone. However, experts warn that scammers could try to abuse the system by sending fake texts. HMRC expects 170,000 calls this month with simple questions as the self-assessment deadline of 31 January approaches

The test phase runs until the beginning of April. HMRC’s Richard West said: “Customers who are unable to use digital services can get support through our telephone service.”

Jake Moore, cybersecurity consultant at software company ESET said: “Any new technology works perfectly in the hands of cybercriminals.

“They will of course try to abuse the system and since we have never seen this type of communication, criminals will naturally jump on it.”

As part of the trial, customers who call from a mobile phone with a routine question will receive an SMS with a link to the website.

The message is automatically triggered by the reason for their call, which could include finding a taxpayer reference number or a forgotten password or user ID.

Taxpayers who are calling and need help completing their tax return or a letter verifying their Social Security number have the choice of receiving an online link or staying on the line.

HMRC has come under fire for its poor customer service in recent months.

Finance Committee MPs want answers after customers reported being put on hold for hours or cut off before they could speak to an adviser.

They have raised concerns that HMRC’s work from home policy could be the main cause of long waits.

In December, a technical glitch caused widespread outages to many HMRC telephone lines and online services.

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Emma Colton

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