HMRC suffers mysterious system outage as tax return deadline nears

HMRC tax returns
HMRC tax returns

HM Revenue & Customs has closed all of its phone lines and can't say when they will reopen, leaving taxpayers with urgent queries in the lurch.

On Friday morning the taxman warned no one would be able to reach the department on the phone after “technical issues” forced it to shut all lines and some online services. Its National Clearance Hub line, for help moving goods in and out of the UK, remains open.

The Telegraph understands HMRC suffered similar issues on Thursday. The outage comes as millions of taxpayers prepare to submit annual tax returns, due at the end of January. Christmas is usually HMRC’s busiest time of year.

More than 12 million people filed self-assessment returns in the most recent tax year.

In addition, in last month’s Autumn Statement the Chancellor reduced the threshold for the top rate of income tax, extended the freeze on the personal allowance and cut tax-free allowances on dividends and capital gains tax.

Taxpayers will be keen to speak with HMRC to clarify their tax codes and bills.

Harriett Baldwin, Conservative MP for West Worcestershire and chairman of the Treasury Committee, said it was “seriously concerning” that taxpayers were unable to reach HMRC by telephone.

Ms Baldwin added: “These unexpected outages should be a thing of the past. That’s why I’ve today written to the head of HMRC to demand urgent answers on the issues facing customers over the past 24 hours.”

HMRC did not give any indication as to when its phone lines might be up and running again.

A spokesman for HMRC said: "We are working urgently to resolve an issue which has meant we’ve had to temporarily close most of our phone lines. We apologise to those affected and will reopen them as soon as possible. We encourage people to use our online services, which are open."