20 March 2024
Baldwin welcomes HMRC reversal on self-assessment helpline shutdown

Harriett Baldwin welcomes HMRC’s backtrack on its plans to shut the self-assessment helpline every year between April and September, whilst she backs the long-term strategy to move people online, she says it cannot be done by randomly shutting down telephone helplines.

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)

May I thank the Financial Secretary and the Chancellor for listening to the howl of pain that came from ordinary taxpayers when they saw the announcement yesterday? Those who contact the HMRC hotline are the most law-abiding, tax paying people across this land.

This morning, the Treasury Committee has published more data showing that it is increasingly difficult to contact HMRC by telephone. While I fully endorse what the Minister has just said about the long-term strategy to move people online, it cannot be done by randomly shutting down HMRC’s telephone lines.

The Minister had an excellent digital track record in the private sector before he came into Parliament. May I urge him to use that experience to make this much more of a gradual transition for those law-abiding citizens of ours?

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Nigel Huddleston)

I thank my hon. Friend and the Select Committee for their work in this area. I know that HMRC customer service has been an area of focus for her and others for some time, and we appreciate the input. I recognise that she acknowledges the potential opportunities and the upside to encouraging more people to go online, but the point she makes is really important. HMRC has taken the feedback with good grace, because it is important that we move at the speed at which the public are willing to move. Of course, some people are not willing or able to move to purely online services.

I am sorry for not responding earlier to the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) on whether the telephone lines will stay open. Yes, of course they will.