Pension changes send the taxman’s helpline into meltdown

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Taxpayers confused about changes to the pensions system faced chaos when contacting HMRC's helpline.

Savers were forced to spend around 10 minutes navigating various menu options, only to have their call terminated because the system was "too busy". As many as one million people were believed to have called the helpline on Wednesday, leaving the lines engaged throughout the day.

The new system allows taxpayers over the age of 55 to take cash out of their pension pot.  Any funds that are withdrawn are added to a person’s income, potentially pushing them into the higher rate tax brackets.

This has left many savers unsure about how much tax they would need to pay when withdrawing funds, prompting them to contact HMRC in droves. They were met with an automated voice, advising them to contact the government's Pension Wise service instead.

HMRC called the situation "regrettable" but claimed that only a "small number" of the calls it took were about the new pension rules. It said the phone lines were busy because it was the start of a new tax year.

A Revenue spokesman added: 2We handle around 50 million calls a year and we know that some of our customers struggle to get through on our helplines at very busy times. We are working very hard to improve our service."

He also admitted that the helpline allows callers with certain enquiries, such as those concerning a bereavement, to "jump the queue" ahead of pension matters.

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