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HMRC to close self-assessment helpline from April to October each year – here's how to get help when you need it

If you need to contact HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for help with your tax return, you'll soon only be able to do through its webchat in most cases. That's because, starting from next month, HMRC will be closing its self-assessment telephone helpline for half the year – and will only open it for "priority" calls the rest of the time.

What's changing with HMRC's self-assessment phone line

Here's what you need to know:

  • Between 8 April and 30 September this year, and between around 6 April and 30 September in future years, HMRC's self-assessment phone line will be closed entirely. This is a permanent change to how the line operates. See below for other ways to get in touch if you need to.

  • Between 1 October and 5 April each year, the line will be open – but ONLY for "priority" calls. HMRC told us the type of calls deemed to be a priority will vary depending on when you call. For example:

    - Between 1 October and 31 January: advisers will take calls about annual tax returns and making payments.
    - Between 1 February and 5 April: advisers will take calls about appeals and penalties.

    If you have a query about anything else during these times, you'll be directed to HMRC's online services – more on this below.

In addition, HMRC has announced that the VAT helpline will only be open for five days every month ahead of the deadline for filing VAT returns. The PAYE helpline for employers will also no longer take calls from customers relating to refunds, and customers will be directed to use HMRC’s online services. These two measures will apply all year round.

Alternative ways to contact HMRC if you have a self-assessment query

You have a few options:

  • Use the 'Ask HMRC' online webchat – likely the quickest and easiest way. When you first open the chat, you'll connect to a "digital assistant" – this is accessible 24/7 and HMRC says it can help you find information and guidance.

    If you still can't find what you need, the webchat can also connect you with an HMRC adviser, if there's one available. This should be between the hours of 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

    Between December 2023 and January 2024, average wait times to chat to an adviser online were 12 minutes, compared to 27 minutes on the phone, according to HMRC data. During the same period, 67% of webchat requests were handled by an adviser, while only 65% of customers who called and wanted to speak to an adviser were able to do so.

  • If you're having technical problems accessing the webchat, or if you need extra support for health or personal reasons, call HMRC's online services helpdesk. This will remain open year-round Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), from 8am to 6pm.
  • Write to HMRC by post – likely to be slower but no need to queue. If you can't or don't want to use its online services, or you're struggling to get through, you can send a letter to: Self Assessment, HM Revenue and Customs, BX9 1AS. Depending on what your query was, you can then use HMRC's online tool to check when you can expect a reply.

  • Contact HMRC on Twitter – for general queries ONLY. If you have a Twitter account, you can use the social media platform to get general help from HMRC by tweeting @HMRCcustomers. But you CAN'T get any tailored support specific to your circumstances this way, so don't share any personal information.

What does HMRC say?

The revenue body says it's making the changes so it can help more customers and improve service levels "without spending additional public money", adding that the new schedule would allow its helpline advisers to "focus support where it is most needed".

But Harriett Baldwin MP, chairwoman of the Treasury Select Committee – a parliamentary group which oversees the administration of public bodies including HMRC – has expressed concern over the shake-up. Ms Baldwin said the move should not be "forced on taxpayers" until there's enough evidence that people are comfortable using HMRC's online services.

Additional reporting by PA

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