MPs are given secret VIP tax return phone line which is answered in just five seconds while the public has to wait up to 10 minutes to speak to an advisor for help
- Private number goes direct to an office in Wales called ‘Public Department 1’
- Senior civil servants, and possibly Royal Family members, also have access to it
- General public struggle to talk to anyone at HMRC ahead of January 31 deadline
MPs have a ‘VIP’ phone line for help with tax returns, it emerged yesterday.
While the general public can be made to wait more than ten minutes for an adviser, politicians have a private and direct line.
Yet last year a Commons committee complained that regular taxpayers faced unacceptable delays while the super-rich were given free ‘concierge-style’ advisers.
The private number for MPs goes direct to an office in Wales called ‘Public Department 1’.
Senior civil servants, and possibly some members of the Royal Family, also have access to it. Elaine Clark, of Cheap Accounting.co.uk, said the perk would not go down well with taxpayers.
MPs have a ‘VIP’ phone line for help with tax returns which is answered in just five seconds – while the general public has to wait up to 10 minutes to speak to an advisor
She said clients were telling her they were struggling to speak to anyone at HMRC by phone ahead of the self-assessment deadline on January 31. Many heard a recorded message telling them to try again later – and were then cut off.
‘This takes the biscuit,’ she said. ‘At this time in January when people need the help it is becoming harder and harder to get that help.
‘People on a low income should be provided with more help, while people with income above a certain level should be spending their own money getting advice from an accountant.’
A reporter for the London Evening Standard spent nearly 20 minutes on the phone to HMRC waiting to speak to an adviser on the line for the general public. They tried the VIP line and had to wait only five seconds for a response. They were told: ‘This number is not for general queries. It is specific for Public Department 1 customers.’
Harry Fone, campaign manager at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Hardworking taxpayers will be livid to learn that MPs and their mandarins have priority access to HMRC.
The private number for MPs goes direct to an office in Wales called ‘Public Department 1’. Senior civil servants, and possibly some members of the Royal Family, also have access to it
‘Many people waste hours and hours on hold trying to get answers from the taxman when they could be going about their day jobs.
‘It is a classic example of one rule for us and another rule for the privileged few. It is utter hypocrisy that some MPs complained about people being ahead of the queue when they themselves experienced this kind of preferential treatment.’
The Commons public accounts committee last year criticised HMRC after it emerged that those with more than £20million received their own ‘customer compliance manager’. HMRC said: ‘We ensure the security of all our customer’s information but a small number are at a heightened level of risk.
‘This includes customers whose personal safety could be compromised. We protect these records by restricting access to a small number of appropriately authorised staff.
‘As only certain staff are authorised to access these records we need to have a separate phone line for handling their queries.’
The Institute of Customer Service says £2.4billion of productive time each year is wasted by HMRC’s inefficient responses.
Latest figures show that 14 per cent of callers to the tax helpline had to wait more than ten minutes to speak to anyone.