HMRC update – seasonal self-assessment helpline, Child Benefit and more

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Trialling a seasonal helpline; claiming Child Benefit online now quicker and easier for new parents.

HMRC to trial seasonal Self Assessment helpline

HMRC has announced it’s piloting a new seasonal model for the Self Assessment (SA) helpline, to prioritise helping those with urgent queries.

For three months from 12 June, HMRC will trial directing SA queries from the helpline to the department’s digital services, including its online guidance, digital assistant and webchat. This will free up around 350 advisers to support customers online, take urgent calls on other lines, and answer customer correspondence.

The vast majority of SA customers already use our online services. 97% file online, and only one percent of HMRC customers are digitally excluded.

The helpline will re-open on 4 September this year, so in addition to the online support available, customers can call in the five months running up to the SA deadline on 31 January 2024.

Further information about the announcement can be found on GOV.UK.

SMS text messages continue to help customers find support online

In May, HMRC expanded its SMS text service, where callers are given a digital alternative to answer their queries rather than staying on the line.

It’s now added more topics to this service where customers calling helplines will be given the option to use a link sent via text message for a quicker answer or remain on the phone if preferred.

From 6 June, these topics will include:

HMRC will continue to automatically redirect routine queries where this SMS service is already in place and expects to add more common queries to the service over the coming months, to help customers find answers quickly and easily.

Check if a text message received from HMRC is genuine on GOV.UK.

Claiming Child Benefit is now quicker and easier online for new parents

The new online Child Benefit claims service means the majority of parents can now claim for a first or additional child at a time that suits them on GOV.UK and be paid quicker.

Parents can claim as much as £1,248 a year for their first child, which could add up to almost £20,000 by the time they’re 16. They could also receive nearly £827 a year for any other children they have.

By logging in to their Government Gateway account – or taking just a few minutes to set one up if using HMRC services for the first time – a straightforward online claim (for example a new baby under six months old and registered in the UK) could see their first payment made in as little as three working days, rather than waiting weeks previously.

HMRC knows how important this payment can be to families, so would really appreciate if you could share this information with your clients to support and encourage them to claim online.

Advertising Standards Authority have taken action against tax repayment agents

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned individual adverts from three tax repayment agents for various claims which included being unclear about fees when claiming a tax refund from HMRC, exaggerating the size of the refunds and failing to mention that clients were signing over rights to a cut of potential repayments from preceding years. The ASA determined these adverts must not appear again in the form complained of.

HMRC is reminding customers that they can claim tax refunds directly, ensuring they get 100% of any money due. Be cautious about promises of easy money – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Please share this information with your clients to make them aware of this issue and direct them to the guidance on how to claim a tax refund on GOV.UK.

HMRC has recently introduced a range of new measures to improve transparency in the repayment agent market and to further protect customers, including requiring repayment agents to register with HMRC, new transparency requirements and removing the use of legally binding assignments. We urge anyone thinking of using a tax repayment agent to do their research and check the guidance on how to choose a tax agent on GOV.UK before committing to anything.

Helping customers spot tax avoidance and get help to leave schemes

HMRC is running a ‘Tax avoidance – don’t get caught out’ campaign to help contractors and agency workers spot the warning signs of tax avoidance, report suspicious companies and get support to leave tax avoidance schemes.

You can help reach workers by sharing campaign messages from the Tax Avoidance – don’t get caught out page on GOV.UK and by telling your clients about HMRC’s tools and guides.

The resources include published details of tax avoidance schemes and their promoters to steer clear of. Two contractors, Duncan and Tanya, have also shared their personal stories of tax avoidance to help other people learn from their mistakes.

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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