From the business desk: Time for HMRC to sort out its customer service

W26309H13OliPoole''Business Picture. Worthing Herald Business Reporter, Oli Poole. ENGSUS00120130620162259
W26309H13OliPoole''Business Picture. Worthing Herald Business Reporter, Oli Poole. ENGSUS00120130620162259

WHAT can be achieved in 60 minutes? Drive from Worthing to Portsmouth, play a Chopin nocturne on the piano 12 times on a loop, or cook a slap-up meal, perhaps?

Sadly, one thing which I could not achieve in that time was getting through to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs when phoning it this week.

My problems began at the start of my career, when I registered as self- employed before gaining my full-time job.

In many respects, those six months of freelance journalism were crucial in securing full-time employment at the Herald and Gazette series.

But for the hassle that short time has caused since, I would never go back to self-employment again.

And that is all because of my experience of HMRC.

One friend of mine told me they were kept waiting for 47 minutes and gave up. Can anyone beat the ‘record’ 60 minutes?

Oli Poole, business reporter

In the early 2000s, historian and TV presenter Adam Hart-Davis fronted a series of advertisements for HMRC, with the catchy tagline ‘tax doesn’t have to be taxing’.

When the first advert aired, I was just 11 years of age and had no concept, or care, of what he was talking about.

But even now, having been through the system, I am still not convinced of the accuracy of those words.

For businesses across the Herald and Gazette area, dealing with HMRC will be a regular occurrence.

Business owners will be familiar with the self- assessment process and the importance of filling the forms in on time.

If you do not do so, you face a £100 fine, rising with interest the longer it is not paid.

Essentially, this is what happened to me – but having filed my accounts for the full period and ‘ceased trading’, I had no obligation to complete a self-assessment form again (to my great relief!).

Attempting to sort out this genuine error, I phoned HMRC, following the advice on the letter.

And after an hour of listening to its grating muzak, with no hint of an apology from the call handler for the length of my wait, he directed me to fill in a form.

Call centres are nearly always a nightmare across the board and HMRC is by no means alone in its long waiting times.

But with waiting times to it on the increase, according to the BBC earlier this year, it is clear I am not alone in experiencing issues.

One friend of mine told me they were kept waiting for 47 minutes and gave up. Can anyone beat the ‘record’ 60 minutes?