Government response

HMRC service standards for personal customers

HMRC responds to National Audit Office criticisms with best customer service performance in years.


The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report today criticising HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for periods of poor customer service last year. HMRC has made significant improvements since then and we’re offering our best service in years.

Responding to the report, Ruth Owen, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services said:

We recognise that early in 2015 we didn’t provide the standard of service that people are entitled to expect and we apologised at the time. We have since fully recovered and are now offering our best service levels in years.

Over the past six months we’ve consistently answered calls in an average of six minutes, and have launched new online tax accounts and webchat for everyone, enabling customers to manage their tax affairs wherever and whenever they want.

There’s never been a better or more convenient service for our customers.

HMRC achieved improvements to customer service by:

  • recruiting more than 3,000 additional advisers who can work outside normal office hours when many customers choose to call HMRC
  • introducing more flexible working to deal with large fluctuations in customer demand throughout the year, underpinned by a new telephone system that enables HMRC to move calls around the country in response to demand
  • launching online services that enable customers to manage their tax affairs when and where they want, including by smartphone, with online support such as webchats. The new personal tax account already has more than 1.5 million users and the business tax account more than five million registered users

HMRC average speed of answering calls (minutes)

May 2015 19
June 2015 20
July 2015 10
August 2015 15
September 2015 15
October 2015 17
November 2015 8
December 2015 6
January 2016 5
February 2016 5
March 2016 6
April 2016 6
May 2016 (to date) 5

HMRC is now consistently achieving the best customer service levels in years, and announcements by the Chancellor in the 2016 Budget will improve it further, through:

  • introducing a seven-day service by April 2017, with extended hours and Sunday opening on main phone lines, as well as online support services like webchats ‎
  • recruiting more than 800 new staff into the customer services teams, to reduce call answering times and further increase the flexibility to respond to demand
  • a new secure email service – operated through customers’ online tax accounts – with a faster average response time than the current post handling target

HMRC’s expanding online services are giving customers new, easier, faster and more convenient ways to deal with HMRC, and the investment in IT and flexible working is continuing to improve more traditional customer services.

Nearly ninety per cent of self assessment taxpayers now send in their returns online and last year HMRC received 55,000 tax credit renewals on the deadline day, bringing the online tax credit total for the year to more than 750,000.

In Spending Review 2015 the Chancellor invested £1.3 billion in HMRC to enable HMRC to transform how we interact with our customers and to make HMRC a world leader in digital services and customer service.

Published 25 May 2016