HMRC posts big improvement in online response and call-waiting times

Tax agency releases transparency data showing progress across the board


Credit: Pxhere

After a shaky start to the year 2019/20 year, HM Revenue and Customs has posted big improvements in its response times for online and telephone communications.

Newly released transparency data shows that, in the fiscal year’s third quarter – which ended on 31 December – the department responded within a week to 92% of online ‘iForms’ submitted by citizens. While still shy of HMRC’s stated target of 95%, this represents a clear improvement since the start of the year; during the first quarter, the figure stood at 85.3%.

The progress is even more marked in the tax agency’s response to telephone calls.

In FY20’s opening quarter, callers to HMRC phone lines were waiting an average of nine minutes to speak to an advisor. 

After dropping to 6min 25secs in Q2, the average waiting time dropped to 4min 45secs in the third quarter – the first time it has been within the department’s target range of five minutes.

15%  30.8%
HMRC target for proportion of callers waiting more than 10 mins to be seen to 
FY20 year-to-date figure

5mins  6mins 48secs
HMRC target for average call-waiting time
FY20 year-to-date figure


95%  89.4%
HMRC target for proportion of online iForms responded to within a week
FY20 year-to-date figure

HMRC still faces an uphill challenge in posting a sub-five minute average for FY20 as a whole; the year-to-date figure is 6mins 48secs. 

The proportion of callers waiting in excess of 10 minutes has also fallen dramatically over the course of the year. Although the Q3 figure of 16.8% is still in excess of the department’s 15% target, it is a reduction of almost two-thirds on Q1, when 45.6% of people that called the department were on hold for more than 10 minutes.

Across the first nine months of the fiscal year, the overall figure remains more than double the target: 30.8%.

Customer satisfaction levels with HMRC’s digital services has risen during FY20, from 79.5% in Q1, then up to 81.4% and 82.3% in the subsequent quarters. The department is on track to meet its target for the year of 80%.

The tax authority has also improved its response to postal communications. In the first three months of the year, close to half – 46.9% – of citizens that wrote to the department had to wait more than 15 days for their enquiry to be dealt with. In Q2 this dropped to 25.7%, before falling to 17.9% in the October-to-December quarter.


Sam Trendall

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