When people call our switchboard they are normally put through to whichever of the tax advisers they have chosen from our website.

Around 4.30 today a caller (Tina) was put through to me as my assistant was unable to determine what she required. Tina offered to quote her enquiry number to me. I thought maybe she had called us by mistake. Perhaps our number is very similar to an HMRC office. But no, she had called the number she’d been given by the local VAT office!

(Given the rate at which HMRC are shedding staff at the moment I wonder if the day will come when there are more tax advisers within the Tax Advice Network than left in HMRC?!)

Once we had established what had happened, Tina was equally confused as to why HMRC had given her our number. She thought it was because no one at HMRC was able to resolve her enquiry and they wanted to get rid of her.

This seems unlikely to me. Tina is a bookkeeper for a client in the catering industry and wanted clearance as to whether certain supplies were zero registered. She’d been told to go to a specific page of HMRC website but had been unable to find the relevant contact details thereon. It took me less than a minute to do so. Why had the person she spoke with at HMRC been unable to assist her? Maybe they don’t have access to a computer?

I also questioned whether the clearance facility was really what Tina wanted. I suggested that if she wanted help with a formal letter or anything that involved more than a few minutes on the phone, she should speak to one of the VAT specialist members of the Tax Advice Network.

I’m not complaining – indeed I’m thrilled – that HMRC are directing people with complex tax problems to the Tax Advice Network. Thank you to whoever it was and by all means do it again.