More than three million people may have paid the wrong amount of tax last year after the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) helpline service virtually collapsed under the volume of calls received.
A National Audit Office report has said the reduction in the number of staff handling helpline calls from taxpayers meant call waiting times trebled to an average of 47 minutes last October. More than 5,000 jobs were removed from call centres at a time when the level of telephone calls remained static. Waiting times rose to up to an hour last year, from an average of under 10 minutes in just two years earlier.
The report found that up to 4.2 million callers (1 in 5) hung up after waiting an average of 16 minutes each for an answer last year. This indicates that many could have given up getting the advice they needed to complete tax returns accurately. With the price of the calls officially costing £17 an hour, the cost of the hang-ups which took place after an average of 16 minutes waiting time, was an astonishing £97 million.
Furthermore, staff whose primary job had been to assess PAYE records were drafted in to answer phones as calls stacked up, leaving fewer PAYE checks taking place and raising the possibility that as many as 3.2 million will have ended up paying the wrong amount.
Let us know if you think you were one of the many affected.