Contacting HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

All customers potentially face problems when interacting with HMRC due to the complexity of its work. However these problems can be made worse for some customers with disabilities.

There may be circumstances where you may need to make contact with HMRC and here we offer some tips.

Please note that we are an independent charity, and not part of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

What can I expect from HMRC?
Do HMRC use email?
Using the GOV.UK website
Is GOV.UK ‘accessible’?
What if I need to speak to someone at HMRC?
Advice for calling HMRC
Contacting HMRC if you are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment
Advice for writing to HMRC
Can I talk to someone face to face?
What if I am blind or partially sighted?
Can someone act on my behalf?
Powers of Attorney

What can I expect from HMRC?

There are over 10 million disabled people in the UK and most of these are HMRC customers. HMRC have a legal obligation under the Equality Act to provide an accessible service for all of their customers. You can find the latest report on how HMRC meet their obligation on GOV.UK.

You can find out more information about what HMRC do and their responsibilities on the GOV.UK website.  

You can also find HMRC’s ‘Your Charter’ on the GOV.UK website. The charter sets out what HMRC expect from you, but also what you can expect from them.

If you have a complaint about the way you’ve been treated, HMRC has an established complaints process within which they address issues relating to equality.

In our news piece ‘Dealing with HMRC if you have mental health conditions’, we look at some of the help that HMRC offer, including the making of ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act 2010.

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Do HMRC use email?

Email contact with HMRC is limited, however increasingly you can do things like securely submit forms to HMRC online, e.g. tax refund forms or the form to claim the marriage allowance. It’s always a good idea to print or save a hard copy of what you have submitted to HMRC for your own records and also the confirmation of receipt page, if any.

If you are not online and cannot use these electronic forms, the government can help you with their assisted digital scheme, where someone will help you by inputting your data into the online system on your behalf, or by helping you put your data into the online service yourself.

HMRC also run a webchat facility when you are completing certain forms – this provides you with the opportunity to have a question answered by an adviser while you are completing the form.

There is a section on the main LITRG website which gives an overview of some of HMRC’s digital services, including the new Personal Tax Account, how to access them and what support is available to help you use them. The section also looks at how you must prove your identity before you can use the majority of HMRC’s digital services.

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Using the GOV.UK website

The information on GOV.UK has replaced all tax information on the old HMRC website. The material on GOV.UK is intended to be simple and clear and therefore it may not provide the same detailed information that the HMRC site previously provided. LITRG produce a range of information and guidance on tax issues – you can find this in the tax guides section of the LITRG website.

If you live in Scotland, you may also find the Scottish Government’s website helpful. If you live in Northern Ireland, you may find NI direct helpful.

If you use any of these websites as a source of information, we recommend that you print out a copy of the relevant webpage and keep it somewhere safe, in case of a later dispute. This is particularly important if you are using the GOV.UK website as it is constantly updated and amended as new material is added and existing material is re-written. We look at what to do if you have relied on some GOV.UK information that is later changed or removed in our news piece ‘Has GOV.UK gone wrong for you?

As GOV.UK is the website for all government services, there is a lot of information on it – hopefully the tax information you need will be clearly signposted from the HMRC part of GOV.UK but if not, there is a search facility which may help you find the information you are looking for. Try to be as specific as you can, for example if you know the tax refund form you need is called ‘P87’, search for the form number, rather than ‘tax refunds’. To narrow down the results, you can filter them by government organisation.

Always try to use GOV.UK to search for government information or services rather than use a search engine. This is because results from generic search engines will often bring up unofficial as well as official websites. This can include copycat websites that charge for services that the government offers for free.

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Is GOV.UK accessible?

Information about GOV.UK’s accessibility can be found here.

Here you can find a list of the screen readers and speech recognition systems GOV.UK should be compatible with. For taxpayers with sight impairments there is information on things like keyboard navigation and changing settings for colour, font and text size to help with reading and seeing the site.

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What if I need to speak to someone at HMRC?

Telephone is the main channel of customer service for HMRC – they handle around 60 million calls a year.  Their main helplines lines are staffed by call centre staff.  A full list of helplines can be found by following this Contact HMRC link.

There is a charge for telephoning all HMRC lines and you would be wise to check with your service provider to understand how much that will be. Most HMRC phone lines have recently changed to 0300 numbers which should be cheaper to call for some people. Callers will pay the same amount as a landline call to a 01 or 02 number and the price is the same for calls from mobiles. 0300 numbers are generally included in any discount schemes or inclusive call minutes that taxpayers may have with landline or mobile phone operators. 

Be aware of any HMRC phone numbers that do not start with 0300 – these could belong to expensive call forwarding services as described in LITRG’s news article.

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Advice for calling HMRC

  • On most of the main lines there is a voice recognition system in place and you will need to be prepared beforehand with a few words that best describes your question or query in order to get through the service quickly and ensure you get to the right person.
  • In some cases a security check will be performed by the system so you will need to have your National Insurance number, postcode and other key data ready (if the system does not do this the adviser will). HMRC are trialing a Voice ID system however we understand that it is possible to opt out of this and continue with the security check in the usual way.
  • It is always best to make a note of the date and time of your call and if you speak to an adviser take their name as calls should be recorded and can be traced back where there is any later dispute. We look at how to get hold of a call recording in our news piece ‘Calling HMRC – do you really need to use a paid recording service?
  • In addition it is wise to make a note of the key details from your call, any action you need to take, deadlines you may have to keep to and any tasks that HMRC say they will do. You should keep notes of any phone calls along with important documents relating to your tax and tax credits. We suggest you keep a file with all of these documents.
  • You may need to explain the nature and impact of your disability to the call centre staff member, so that they can provide help in the way that suits you best. (If you want any HMRC officer looking at your records to be made aware of information you have given about your disability, you will have to expressly request this. A special note can then be made on your file. This should save you having to discuss such details over and over again.)
  • You should not be afraid to ask to speak to a supervisor or manager if you do not feel that you are making progress with your call.

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Contacting HMRC if you have a speech impairment, are deaf or hard of hearing

For basic information on contacting HMRC if you have additional needs see GOV.UK.

If you have a speech impairment, are deaf or hard of hearing, you can contact HMRC by text relay or by textphone.

HMRC have produced a British Sign Language video on the Marriage Allowance that can be watched on the HMRC Youtube channel.

The Royal Association for Deaf People (RAD) and HMRC are now working together to make information and advice more accessible for deaf people in the UK. You can find out more on the dedicated website where deaf people can:

  • find information on tax and tax credits in British Sign Language (BSL)
  • book a webcam appointment in British Sign Language with RAD’s own Tax Adviser to solve problems with tax or tax credits
  • contact a British Sign Language interpreter using a webcam who will then talk to an HMRC adviser, thereby creating a three-way ‘real time’ conversation.

Although there is currently no help with 'employer issues' available, the suite of services might be helpful in terms of a care and support employer's personal tax affairs.

Plans are under way to develop the service to give deaf customers even more control. We will post any updates to our website.

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Advice for writing to HMRC

A lot of HMRC’s business can be done by phone, but in certain circumstances you will need to write to them. Correspondence to HMRC does take a little longer so if you feel you can use the telephone it may be quicker.

  • You should write to HMRC at the postal address shown on the most recent correspondence received from them.  If you don’t have a specific address to write to, you should use the appropriate address from HMRC’s contact us pages. 
  • You should put a clear heading on your letter, e.g. complaint, tax repayment, calculation query, information request, PAYE coding query so that HMRC can identify the broad content of the letter and make sure it reaches the right area of the department.
  • Your letter should also give your full personal details, your name, and address, and National Insurance number etc. Include as much information as possible and unless otherwise stated include photocopies of any helpful or relevant supporting documents, e.g. payslips, P45’s etc. (Sometimes HMRC say not to include any paperwork in the first instance. Sometimes they may ask for the originals, in which case keep a copy of what you send them.)
  • Sign and date your letter in ink. 
  • Keep a copy of your letter and enclosures as necessary, along with proof of posting from the post office – you may even consider sending the post recorded delivery or registered post especially if there is a deadline to meet or the contents are urgent.

Whether you use the telephone or post a letter to ask your query you are recommended to always ask HMRC when you can expect a reply and make a note of it. In addition be aware of any key dates or deadlines that you still may have to adhere to whilst your query is ongoing.

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Can I talk to someone face to face?

All the HMRC enquiry centres are now closed to the public and you can no longer drop by for help 'across the counter'. A new service for those who need extra help with their taxes is available instead. A small team of specially trained telephone advisers can spend more time with vulnerable individuals and so offer a more personalised service. The team do not follow scripts rigidly. They also join things up with other parts of HMRC, so that you do not have to. They help sort out debt issues and can also hold face-to-face appointments. This could include a face to face visit in your home or at a specified venue near to home – whatever suits you and your query best.

You should call HMRC first, using the relevant contact number. Explain your circumstances to the adviser who will then be able to put you through to the special team. Make sure you tell them if you think you need to arrange a visit to your home or meet somewhere nearby. Please note you can use an online form to arrange face to face appointments if you find it difficult to use a telephone.

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What if I am blind or partially sighted?

For basic information on contacting HMRC if you have additional needs see GOV.UK.

If you have a visual impairment, dyslexia or other disability and need material in an alternative format HMRC can produce most paper forms, leaflets and other information in the following formats:

  • Braille
  • large print
  • audio on CD
  • text on CD (standard or large print)
  • other formats on request, for example, colored paper

However, it takes more time to produce material in an alternative format so there may be a delay in receiving your correspondence.

HMRC has a Visually Impaired Media unit which provides the enhanced products. They cannot be contacted directly. You should call HMRC first, using the relevant contact number. Tell the adviser what you need and they will arrange for it to be sent out to you by the special unit.

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Can someone act on my behalf?

All customers can appoint someone to deal with HMRC on their behalf – not just those who have an illness or disability. 

This may be a friend or family member, a professional adviser or someone from a voluntary organisation. Voluntary organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, TaxAid or Tax Help for Older People can help if you are on a low income.

If you can afford paid professional help, we suggest you contact a Chartered Tax Adviser.

Every decision that your representative makes should be authorised by you. You will still be legally responsible for your own tax.

Before HMRC will discuss your affairs with someone else, they need you to confirm that you are happy with this arrangement. Sometimes it is possible to do this informally over the phone. (The member of HMRC staff will want to speak to you directly to confirm who you are and that you are happy for them to discuss you affairs with someone else.) However, normally this will only be permitted on one occasion, after that you will probably have to appoint an intermediary or agent (see below).

Please note that if you just require a form, or have a general query, there should be no problem for HMRC to talk to your representative about this – they will not be asked for a proof of identity or any other security questions. 

Appointing an intermediary

You can arrange for someone else to communicate with HMRC on your behalf by appointing what is called an ‘intermediary’. An intermediary can speak to HMRC on your behalf and help you to complete forms.

To authorise an intermediary to help deal with your tax, you need to write to HMRC. The letter to authorise an intermediary must include:

  • your name and address
  • your tax reference number
  • the name and address of the person or organisation you want to authorise
  • your signature

An intermediary will not have access to your tax online and if you would like someone to help you with digital filing, HMRC allows a friend or relative to register online as your ‘trusted helper'. 

Having a longer term representative

If you wish to appoint a third party such as a professional accountant, a friend or relative or member of a voluntary organisation to handle your tax affairs on a longer term basis as your agent, you should complete and sign HMRC’s form 64-8. An ‘agent’ does not just mean accountant – it can be anyone who you wish to authorize to deal with HMRC for you on a permanent basis. 

Once this authority has been lodged and processed HMRC will send all correspondence to your authorised agent with the exception of tax demands or refunds which will continue to be sent to you. You should make sure that your representative discusses all correspondence received from HMRC with you – not just what they think might be important. 

The appointment of an intermediary, trusted helper or agent, as discussed above, will not be effective if you lose mental capacity.  At that time, authority would rest with an attorney appointed by you under a Power of Attorney.

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Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that lets you appoint someone to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. This gives you more control over who will make decisions for you if, for example, you have an accident or an illness and can’t make decisions at the time they need to be made (you ‘lack mental capacity’).

The appointment of an intermediary, trusted helper or agent, as discussed above, will not be effective if you lose mental capacity. At that time, authority would rest with an attorney appointed by you under a Lasting Power of Attorney (or an Enduring Power of Attorney, if made before 1 October 2007). In Scotland you can make a Continuing Power of Attorney for decisions about your property and financial affairs. 

For information on powers of attorneys, including how to make one, see GOV.UK. Below, we provide you with a basic outline. 
 
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a written document that allows you to give legal authority for someone (and you can choose more than one person) to make decisions on your behalf. You can also name one or more replacement attorney to act should your attorney be unable to act. A Lasting Power of Attorney cannot be used until it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian which is the executive agency of the Ministry of Justice that protects people in England and Wales who may not have the mental capacity to make certain decisions for themselves. In Scotland this role is undertaken by the Office of the Public Guardian Scotland.

Who can make a Lasting Power of Attorney?

You can only make a Lasting Power of Attorney when you have mental capacity (and you have to be over 18) so it is sensible to put arrangements in place when you are able to do so in case you suffer from an accident or an illness that might later prevent you from making your own decisions.

What types of Lasting Power of Attorney are there?

There are two forms of Lasting Power in England and Wales. There is a Lasting Power for Health and Care decisions and a Lasting Power for Property and Financial Affairs.  You can choose to make one type or both. The Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power will cover decisions about your tax affairs. In Scotland you can make a ‘Continuing Power of Attorney’ for decisions about property and financial affairs and a ‘Welfare Power of Attorney’ for decisions about your health and welfare matters.

Who will manage my tax affairs after I have lost capacity?

If you lose capacity and have not made a Lasting Power of Attorney then it may be necessary for a third party to make an application to court to be appointed as your Deputy to deal with your affairs. A Deputy can only act under a court order of the Court of Protection. A Deputy for your property and financial affairs will not generally be required if you have previously made a Lasting Power of Attorney for property and financial affairs provided the Power has been properly registered and the attorney is able to act.

Who will manage my tax affairs after I have died?

On your death your affairs, including tax matters, will be handled by your Personal Representative(s), rather by than an appointed attorney or agent.  A Personal Representative can be an Executor appointed in your Will or an Administrator who is entitled to act under the Probate rules where there is no valid appointment in a Will. If you are a Personal Representative it is important to notify HMRC of the death (usually it is best to either notify HMRC through the deceased’s local tax office or through the government’s Tell us Once service) so that they can update its records (including cancelling any benefits).

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