HMRC has a VIP phone line that answers calls in a few minutes – but only for these people | Personal Finance | Finance

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A “VIP” helpline allows higher earners, including ministers and civil servants, to have their calls answered by nine times faster than members of the public.

The helpline, known as Public Department 1 (PD1), operates with up to nine call handlers, and the average wait time, based on the most recent publicly available data, was two minutes and 27 seconds.

Meanwhile, ordinary Britons are left waiting around 22 minutes and 47 seconds on average.

The most notable contrast was recorded in November when callers to the VIP helpline waited on average one minute and 53 seconds for assistance.

In comparison, members of the public experienced an average waiting time of over 22 minutes – 11 times longer during the same month.

The PD1 helpline deals with high-profile taxpayers whose tax records are stored separately for security reasons, the Times reports.

Dame Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the cross-party public accounts committee (PAC), said greater resources should be given to HMRC to bring services up to scratch for everyone, regardless of their position or role in society.

Defending the VIP helpline, an HMRC spokesperson said: “PD1 is a dedicated helpline for those who need a greater level of protection due to their identity or job. It has nothing to do with people’s wealth.

“PD1 records are held separately, with only a small number of staff able to access them.”

They added that the tax authority usually has seven people answering calls to this helpline, but it can have up to nine “at most”.

HMRC also noted that PD1 does not deal with the vast majority of civil servants and that it periodically reviews the customer set and removes individuals and businesses if they no longer match the PD1 criteria.

A report by the Public Accounts Committee said HMRC’s customer service levels have fallen to an “all-time low”, with taxpayers suffering from a tax authority that is “struggling to cope”.

Up to 62.7 percent of callers waited more than 10 minutes to speak with an advisor in 2022/23, up from 46.3 percent the previous year.

HMRC told the PAC’s inquiry that it did not have the resources to meet rising demand for its phone and post services at expected standards.

In response to the PAC’s criticism, HMRC said it is making “strong progress” to improve its customer services, with a focus on encouraging people to deal with the tax authority online where they can, by providing quicker, easier and always-available digital services.

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