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Some calls to HMRC will be answered by text to save time waiting on phone lines

Some people calling HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) from a mobile phone with a routine question will have it answered by text message, rather than waiting to speak to someone.

The new service, being trialled from Thursday, will direct routine helpline calls to online services where certain queries can be resolved quickly and easily.

Texts will automatically be triggered, based on customers’ reasons for calling, and will include direct links to relevant online information.

Throughout January, HMRC expects around 170,000 calls from customers with queries which can be answered swiftly online, such as resetting a password.

HMRC believes the move will help to free up its advisers to deal with people with more complex queries as well as providing callers with a routine question with a better service.

The trial comes as the self-assessment deadline looms.

More than 12 million taxpayers are expected to file a return for the 2021/22 tax year by January 31 2023.

Routine calls that will be answered with a text under the trial will include:

– People finding their unique taxpayer reference (UTR) number;

– Registering for HMRC online services;

– Lost or forgotten online service passwords or user IDs.

In some cases, people will be given the option to be redirected or remain on the phone, including when they need help filling in a self-assessment tax return, queries on whether they should register for self-assessment or still need to complete a tax return, lost national insurance (NI) numbers, and requests for an income and employment history.

Richard West, HMRC director of personal tax operations, said: “Redirecting these sorts of queries to online services should help customers find the answer more quickly.

“It also means calls from customers during the current self-assessment peak, whose questions cannot easily be answered online and require help from an adviser, get the appropriate support they need.

“We are continuing to transform our digital services, increasing their capabilities so customers who self-serve can have their questions answered quickly, saving them time waiting on phone lines or for information to arrive in the post.

“Customers who cannot use digital services will be able to get support in the normal way. This is available through our telephony service and through our extra support team for those who have difficulty using our other services.”

The trial runs until the end of this financial year.

HMRC has previously faced criticism over its service levels and compliance activities.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently found that an “eye-watering” £42 billion was outstanding in unpaid tax.

HMRC has previously said it is adding people to its compliance teams and it takes a supportive approach to taxpayers in debt and balances that with recovering debt from those who can afford it.