Not only does HMRC have to be ashamed at over-/under- charging millions of people, it compounds its error by publishing an expensive 0845 telephone number for those affected to call with enquiries.
0845 3000 627 is a revenue sharing number. This earns HMRC around 2p per minute as subsidy towards the cost of providing the service.
Callers therefore incur additional charges - a premium over the rate for calling a normal telephone number - from most telephones.
Because BT is regulated, preventing it from itself earning money from these calls, it charges rates that may even be lower than normal, but this regulation is unique to BT.
Typical examples of the premiums incurred when calling a 0845 number are as follows:
£ Virgin media landline (normal calls inclusive) - 11p per call + 10p per minute
£ Contract mobile (landline calls inclusive) - 20p per minute
£ PAYG Mobile - 25p per minute (40p rather than 15p)
£ Public Payphone - around 20p per minute (20p for 1 minute rather than 20p for 30 minutes)
By continuing to use 0845, rather than 03, numbers, HMRC is also helping fund the telecoms industry, or is it helping to encourage people to subscribe to BT even though BT does not directly make money on these calls! It is certainly leaving callers with a sizeable bill, well in excess of the amount by which it benefits!
The www.SayNoTo0870.com website collects alternative (geographic) numbers which people have found to work in place of numbers that are expensive from some landlines or mobiles - i.e. 084/087/0800 numbers.
It lists one alternative for 0845 3000 627. I have called the 01506 47??66 number given and been told that the agent answering could deal with my enquiry about a P800 just as if I had called the 0845 number.
Anyone is free to go to http://www.saynoto0870.com/search.php, enter 0845 3000 627 in the "Enter Number Here" box, click "Search" and call the complete number given there. Wide publication of alternatives may disrupt HMRC and it may be that there is a limited queuing capability on the alternative number. Given the extent of the difference per minute, potentially multiplied many times whilst queuing, it is not difficult to understand why many people will try anything to enable them to get through at a reasonable cost.
My personal campaigning objective is for HMRC (and all other public service providers) to immediately start adopting 03 numbers in place of 084. These can be called at the same cost as any 01/02 number, from all types of line and if 01/02 numbers are inclusive then 03 will be also. There is no revenue sharing benefit.
The process of transition to 03 is starting, but very slowly. In these times when all are under financial pressure, public bodies must do without these little subsidies that come at enormous cost to many citizens, generally the least well off, who are less likely to benefit from the lower premiums incurred with landlines.