AM wants changes in costs for calling tax line
A SWANSEA-BASED AM has criticised delays in dealing with queries on a tax credit hotline.
Peter Black, AM for South Wales West, claimed people were being left hanging on the phone by Revenue and Customs with queries about tax codes and when asking about a rebate.
Callers are also said to be facing problems when reporting a change of circumstances over Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, or asking about overpayments and underpayments.
Mr Black claimed the service was on an 0845 number which charged mobile users 40 pence per minute.
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But HMRC said it was not the case and that they were using the less expensive 0345 number instead.
A spokeswoman also said extra contact centre staff were recruited back in August to handle calls.
Mr Black said: "I regularly get comments and complaints from residents in the South Wales West region over the way that the tax authorities handle enquiries from individual taxpayers.
"One matter that concerns people is the amount of time that they get left hanging on the telephone waiting to query a tax code, ask about a rebate, report a change of circumstances over Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, or enquire about overpayments and underpayments for example.
"Revenue and Customs don't have a target time by which they will answer a call."
He added: "In addition, as taxpayers are encouraged to report changes of circumstances promptly, it is quite wrong that they should have to wait ages for such calls to be answered, and then get charged for the wait into the bargain."
Mr Black said action needed to be taken quickly by Revenue and Customs over the matter.
"Right now, the average time taken by HMRC to answer a call is more than four minutes," he said.
"Given the thousands of calls they get, this must mean that many people on low incomes are waiting substantially longer and running up significant costs as a result.
"HMRC must take this matter seriously and introduce a call waiting target as a matter of urgency."
A HMRC spokeswoman added: "In August this year HMRC announced the recruitment of up to 1,000 additional contact centre staff, to achieve a target of answering 90 per cent of all calls two years earlier than planned. "We are investing an additional £9 million this year and up to £25 million in 2013/14 to reach the call centre industry standard.
"HMRC handles around 60 million calls a year and in 2011/12 we answered 74 per cent of all calls — a huge improvement on 2010/11.
"We also offer online services and other ways of serving customers which ultimately reduces their need to call us.
"But this additional investment will allow us to provide a better calls service to those customers who require it."