In light of recent developments, it’s essential to address the changes that HMRC is implementing in its Agent Dedicated Line (ADL). Set to take effect on October 2, 2023, these changes have caused a stir among tax professionals and have raised several significant concerns that warrant our attention.
Removal of the 10-Minute Call Answering Target
One of the most significant changes is the removal of the 10-minute call answering target. While HMRC claims that this alteration is intended to enhance the quality of service offered, many agents are left questioning how prolonging call waiting times will actually achieve this goal. Agents have reported wait times far exceeding the supposed 10-minute target, often enduring at least 20 minutes on hold before reaching a representative. This move seems contradictory to HMRC’s commitment to improving service standards.
Re-routing of PAYE Queries
Additionally, HMRC plans to re-route some PAYE queries to separate teams. While this might streamline PAYE-related inquiries, agents with questions on other subjects, such as self-assessment, may be asked to call back on the ADL. This could potentially result in agents facing further delays and complications when seeking assistance on a range of tax matters.
Professional Bodies Express Concern
Professional bodies such as CIOT, ATT, ICAS, and ICAEW have expressed their concerns about these changes. They view these alterations as a further erosion of services to agents and find it disappointing that their recommendations have seemingly been ignored. These organizations are actively seeking feedback from their members regarding the impact of these changes, underlining the gravity of the situation.
A Shift Towards Digital Services
While HMRC encourages agents to use digital services where possible, it’s important to recognize that not all queries can be resolved online. Last year, over a third of calls answered on the ADL were progress chasing queries, which indicates the need for one-to-one support. Many other queries, such as SA registration/deregistration requests and confirmation of tax codes, can also only be addressed through direct contact with HMRC.
It’s no secret that HMRC faces significant resourcing challenges, resulting in declining services across the board. Digital services have gaps, postal queries go unanswered for extended periods, and telephone services and wait times consistently fall short of expectations. HMRC insists it is committed to improving services and recognizes the value of agents, but these latest changes seem to counter those assertions.
In conclusion, the changes to the Agent Dedicated Line set to take effect on 2 October 2023 raise serious concerns for agents and the clients they serve. The removal of the 10-minute call answering target, re-routing of queries, and the overall decline in service levels are causing frustration and uncertainty within the agent community. It is crucial that we remain vigilant and vocal about our concerns and continue working with professional bodies to ensure that agents’ voices are heard and the services provided by HMRC meet the needs of all taxpayers.