HMRC fails to answer more than a quarter of phone calls

We all know its very frustrating trying to get through to HMRC on their phone lines – this weeks news reveals how bad things really are  – according to BBC news :

HMRC fails to answer more than a quarter of phone calls – BBC News 

More than a quarter of phone calls to HM Revenue and Customs went unanswered in the last year, figures have shown.

Of the 64.7 million calls made by taxpayers between April 2014 and March 2015, 27.5% – 17.8 million – were either unanswered or resulted in a busy tone.

HMRC’s chief executive apologised for the figures and said the revenue’s service had not been “up to scratch”.

The service has pledged to invest £45m in about 3,000 customer services staff.

Another 2,000 staff will be moved temporarily from within the HMRC to help with the tax credits deadline and letters and forms, it said.

HMRC set a target to answer 80% of calls.

But the figures showed that in some months only about two in three (65.5%) of phone calls were answered.

In September 20.8% of people heard busy tones and could not join a phone queue when they called, while 13.7% of calls were not answered.

In total 7.2 million calls made to the HMRC last year – 11% of all calls – ended with people hearing a busy tone.

Lin Homer, HMRC chief executive, said: “Despite our best efforts, our call performance hasn’t been up to scratch and we apologise to all those customers who have struggled to get through to us.”

Ms Homer said the HMRC had already invested in new telephone equipment and online services.

The new £45m investment will come from current HMRC funding rather than from additional revenue from the Treasury, the HMRC added.

Changes to National Insurance

The Government has recently introduced a number of changes to national insurance and further measures affecting both employers and individuals are in the pipeline. Our factsheet provides an overview of some key changes, as well as offering advice on a range of strategies to help minimise your national insurance bill.

HMRC Target online sellers

Thousands of online sellers will need to get their tax affairs in order as HMRC wields its expanded powers to get user information from online marketplaces like Amazon, Gumtree, Ebay and Etsy. The Revenue has sent 14,000 letters to traders suspected of running a business and failing to declare this on their tax returns. Of these, 1,000 letters are being sent to people where the taxman has already identified a shortfall on their self-assessment forms.The new crackdown was launched on the back of extensive new powers introduced last year enabling HMRC to download people’s account information. It was reported in theTelegraph that eBay, Etsy, Amazon and Gumtree are being forced to hand over customer account details, including their selling activity, as part of the taxman’s legal powers that were extended last year.

The HMRC also avoided stating exactly what the threshold is where an online seller becomes an online trader. Instead, the Revenue uses the badges of trade as their guiding principle.. The criteria used to assess if an activity is a hobby or a business are:

  • The size and commerciality of the activity.
  • The frequency of the activity and transactions
  • The application of business principles.
  • Whether there is a genuine profit motive.
  • The amount of time devoted to the activities.
  • The existence of arm’s-length customers (as opposed to just selling your wares to family and friends).

Some of the 14,000 targeted thus far had made as little as £100 profit online.

“Anyone just selling the occasional item has nothing to worry about. This is about making sure on-line traders pay the right tax – wealthy or otherwise. We will make contact with those that we are aware might need our help to get it right,” said a HMRC spokesperson.

The spokesperson went on to confirm that those continuing to avoid the Revenue’s overtures, could face penalties and that the taxman “will determine the amount of tax due based on the information we have available”.

HMRC have some great examples to help you decide, for example:

Gail is a full-time employee working for a stationery company. She pays her PAYE tax on this employment every month.

In her free time Gail makes cushions and uses most of them in her home. Occasionally she sells them to friends and work colleagues for an amount that just covers the cost of materials of £15. Sometimes she makes a loss. Any money she does make goes towards her holiday fund.

She decides to make extra cash by selling cushions on an Internet auction site and starts auctioning three or four to see how they go. They all sell for more than £50, a profit of at least £35 each.

She uses this money to buy more materials and within a month she is selling around ten cushions a week, always at a profit, and is considering setting up her own website.

Gail’s initial sales of cushions to friends are not classed as trading. It lacks commerciality and she does not set out to make a profit. The occasional sales are a by-product of her hobby. Once she begins to auction her cushions, she has moved into the realms of commerciality. She is systematically selling her goods to make a profit. She will need to inform HMRC about her trade, and keep records of all her transactions. On the level of sales shown in the example the potential turnover of around £26,000 is well below the VAT annual threshold so Gail does not need to register for VAT. Many traders start off in a small way and assume their activity will be treated as a hobby. They don’t realise that if it grows into a business they need to register with HMRC. You should register as Self Employed as soon as your hobby becomes a commercial venture, even if you are losing money! 

If you don’t register, HMRC will be looking for you and if you have an online business it won’t be hard for them to find you. If you need any help with registering as Self Employed just drop me an email or book a free call with me at