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High Demand for Personal Interaction: 40% of Taxpayers Seek HMRC Assistance

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Due to the increasing complexity of the tax process, a significant proportion of taxpayers prefer to engage directly and get HMRC assistance from their advisers rather than simply relying on the HMRC website.

Research on behalf of HMRC found that most taxpayers preferred that they manage their tax returns online, especially when faced with complex tax issues.

Drivers for Direct Engagement

The main reasons for this preference for direct communication are the need for reassurance and concerns about the possible consequences of errors, regardless of individual digital skills.

Surprisingly, this trend towards personal support extends to projects on a straightforward and robust basis, with taxpayers choosing to telephone HMRC representatives whenever possible.

personal interaction for HMRC assistance

Respondents, however, indicated that if they did not require specialised knowledge, they would prefer to deal with simple issues online.

Individuals who perceived themselves as more digitally competent also expressed a willingness to use mobile services, motivated by a need for reassurance and a fear of facing consequences for any offence committed.

The survey, which involved 3,644 taxpayers and explored their preferences for digital telephony services, found that three-quarters (75%) had contacted HMRC online in the past year, while 41% had spoken to an HMRC representative directly.

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Digital Push and Its Limits

Despite efforts by HMRC in recent years to increase web usage, including personal tax audits, business tax audits, and the introduction of the HMRC app, the survey showed continued demand for non-digital communication channels, with the majority, even when asked to file their tax returns online (86%), expressing at least some willingness to engage with HMRC digitally in the future.

personal interaction for HMRC assistance

Notably, more than half of less digitally literate taxpayers indicated that they were ready to embrace online communication, with respondents using online forms (39%) available on HMRC websites, highlighting that developing a user-friendly solution indicated a preference for a variety of uses that involved digital channels, including live web chat (22%), and email communication (17%).

However, despite the investment in digital services, the survey revealed little enthusiasm for the introduction of new digital offerings.

Only 12% expressed interest in using an online tax account, and only 7% indicated they were willing to use the HMRC app. Notably, only 3% of respondents expressed interest in using a web chat service that uses an automated chatbot.

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Awareness Gap and Inclusivity

Alarmingly, almost one in five respondents (18%) were unaware of HMRC’s online services for tax administration.

The report reveals that customers pay a high price for the assurance of the accuracy of completed work and the ease of navigating HMRC’s online systems. It shows that if HMRC’s services are flexible and provide fast, personalised assurance, customers will be able to join the internet.

However, individuals with greater digital proficiency reported being less likely to try services online or in their own ways.

About 8% of the UK population currently falls into the “digitally excluded” category, defined as individuals who have not used the internet at all in the past three months.

Within this population, post and telephone connections remain the preferred forms of communication with HMRC, with 57% in favour of each.

personal interaction for HMRC assistance

Notably, the digitally excluded demographic includes individuals who are older, have disabilities, have less education or formal education who were working, receiving tax credits, or have consumed them ages 16–24, and only 1% of them were classified as digitally excluded.

This comprehensive survey covers 3,644 taxpayers and sheds light on priorities and growing challenges in taxpayer-HMRC interactions.

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