HMRC delays

9th September 2019

We reported earlier this year that HMRC delays are causing problems for taxpayers – and unfortunately this looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

According to HMRC’s most recently published performance update, 30.2% of customers waited more than 10 minutes to speak to an adviser – more than double its 15% target and a significant increase on 2018-19’s 17% average.

And that’s not all. Nearly 25% of customers waited longer than 40 days for a postal response, while HMRC cleared 91.4% of iForms within seven days of receipt – missing its 95% target.

What is causing the HMRC delays?

There are two main issues we believe are causing the backlog:

Making Tax Digital

The introduction of the controversial Making Tax Digital system is almost certainly responsible for the upsurge in calls to HMRC. Users have reported a raft of teething problems – from the service being unavailable due to maintenance, to “technical issues” affecting direct debit payments.

As of June, HMRC had received 19.9m calls from new personal tax account holders since April 2019, compared to 16m in the same period last year. And with last month seeing the VAT submission deadline under the new system, the call volumes for July and August are likely to be even higher.

As of 20 August, an estimated 200,000 business still had not signed up to MTD.


It’ll come as no surprise that Brexit is diverting attention and resources away from HMRC’S day-to-day operations. Last month Chancellor Sajid Javid ordered it to prioritise preparing for a no-deal Brexit. According to the FDA Union, which represents HMRC staff, more than 5,000 employees have been re-assigned to Brexit preparation projects.

Like the rest of the public sector, HMRC has been forced to make cuts to its resources in recent years as a result of the Government’s austerity programme. Despite an initial hike in staffing levels following the referendum, numbers have fallen from around 61,000 in 2016 to 56,000. And with Brexit uncertainty set to continue beyond Britain’s scheduled exit date of 31 October, it’s unlikely the pressure will ease anytime soon.

What can I do?

Unfortunately the HMRC delays are likely to continue well into 2020, so we recommend being as proactive as possible to avoid leaving things to the last minute.

Familiarise yourself with your submission deadlines and make sure you have everything you need ahead of time wherever possible.

Remember that it can take several days to register for your Government Gateway account before you are able to file, so make sure you factor this in as it could have an impact on whether you are able to file online.

Further support

Our expert team is always on hand to offer guidance and advise you on the best course of action should you find yourself impacted by the backlog. Get in touch to speak to a member of our friendly team.

Chartered Accountants in Sunderland, offering expertise on everything from Tax and Business Planning,
to Accounts and VAT.