HMRC gets back on track with digital customer service in 2018

Department’s monthly figures show improvements in response times across the board, despite far greater volume of enquiries

Government figures reveal that HMRC began the year by getting back on track with its digital customer-service targets, including a big reduction in response times for phone calls and internet enquiries, and a hike in customer satisfaction with its online services.

Stats published today by the department find that overall customer satisfaction with its digital services in January stood at 81.2%. This represents an improvement of 1.6 percentage points on the prior month – and meant that HMRC returned to meeting its minimum target level of 80%.

The tax agency also responded within seven days to 96.2% of online enquiry forms submitted by citizens in January – an improvement of 3.8% percentage points on 2017’s final month. Once again, this meant that HMRC is back in line with its specified target of at least 95%. However, the year-to-date figure for the 10-month period to the end of January remains at 92.8%.

Average call-waiting times were slashed by 23 seconds in January to 4 minutes 20 seconds – well within the department’s five-minute target. The percentage of calls classified as “outliers” – where callers had to wait more than 10 minutes for their call to be answered – was down by 2.6 points to 14%. Again, this allowed HMRC to get within its target range of 15% or under.

HMRC in January – actual performance vs targets

81.2%   vs   80% 
Customer satisfaction with digital services 

4 mins 20 secs   vs   5 mins
Average call-answering time

96.2%   vs   95%
Online forms responded to within seven days

14%   vs   15% or under
Percentage of callers waiting more than 10 minutes for an answer


The department also improved the speed with which it responds to postal enquiries in January; 85.5% received a response within 15 days, and 97.9% were handled within 40 days. Both these figures met departmental targets of 80% and 95%, respectively.

The improvement in response times and customer satisfaction comes despite the department seeing a big month-on-month increase in all forms of citizen interaction in January. 

About 500,000 people registered for a new personal tax account during the month, compared with 200,000 in December. The volume of phone calls received by HMRC rose by more than two million to almost 4.8 million, while the number of online enquiry forms submitted spiked by 31,715 to a total of 110,379.

The amount of post received from citizens in January was fairly steady on the prior month, but did increase by 80,265 to 1.27 million.

HMRC’s January interactions

Number of new personal tax accounts created – an increase of 300,000 on the prior month

4.76 million
Customer phone calls received – an increase of 2.07 million on the prior month

1.27 million
Items of post received – an increase of 80,625 on the prior month

Online enquiry forms received – an increase of 31,715 on the prior month

New complaints received – an increase of 1,802 on the prior month 


I worse news for HMRC, the number of complaints received in 2018’s opening month rose significantly on both December and on January 2017. Some 6,873 complaints were received in January and the percentage of these that were fully upheld – 42% – was higher than at any other point in the tax year so far. No other month has seen more than 40% of complaints fully upheld. 

A further 13% of complaints were partly upheld in January, meaning 45% were dismissed as illegitimate – the lowest total so far in 2017/18.

The number of tier-2 complaints – where a customer disagrees with HMRC’s decision on their initial complaint – also rose somewhat in January to a total of 403. The amount of these that were fully upheld stood at 22% – up from 16% in the prior month.

Sam Trendall

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