Subbies cut off from HMRC helpline


HMRC has shut down its self-assessment helpline for three months, making it harder for subcontractors to deal with tax problems. 

Construction worker building a wall.

The department is trialling a seasonal model where it will direct all self-assessment (SA) queries to its digital services page. 

SA customers are increasingly moving toward online filling (97%), with HMRC receiving fewer calls around the Summer. 

This transition is why the service has shut down its helpline from 12 June to 4 September, with 350 advisors free to deal with more “urgent calls”. 

The problem for subbies 

Diverting calls to an online service does not align with the schedules of construction workers, nearly 800,000 of whom are self-employed, the most out of any industry in the UK, according to Statista

These workers are primarily on-site and do not have much time to check online portals regularly. 

Additionally, they need an accessible service to register and submit their SA before their deadlines in October. 

Closing the helpline will only create a backlog for HMRC when September rolls along. 

Industry comments

Payroll services provider for the construction industry, Hudson Contract, has urged HMRC to reopen the helpline, on behalf of the self-employed tradespeople it represents. 

“We know from experience the helpline is by far the easiest way for subbies to quickly resolve any issues with their self-assessment, especially if they are paying higher than necessary tax deductions under CIS,” said Ian Anfield, a managing director at Hudson. 

“It is simply not practical for tradespeople to get online, register for digital services and then look out for HMRC messages when they are busy working on building sites.”

Regarding an earlier trial into digital services, HMRC found that among the 180,000 customers that called the department for help, almost 40% did not require further assistance from an advisor after receiving an SMS message directing them to online support. 

On the helpline break, HMRC’s deputy CEO and second permanent secretary, Angela MacDonald, said: “Our online services, including the HMRC app, are quick and easy to use and have been significantly improved. I urge customers to explore these fully before deciding to wait to speak to us on the phone.”  

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