As more than 400 tax workers join other professions in the recent wave of UK strike action, construction workers have reported serious issues in their attempts to communicate with the HMRC construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

Although online verification doesn’t appear to have been affected, callers to the CIS helpline have faced long delays with some reporting being cut off during their attempts to speak to someone. Find out more in this week’s blog.

Strike action – the background

Since June 2022, there have been increasing numbers of strikes occurring across a range of industries in the UK, including many parts of the rail and bus networks, postal workers, civil servants, teaching staff and NHS staff. 

With issues around pay, working conditions, pensions and redundances being disputed by workers and their unions, the number of working days lost in a month as a result of strikes rose to 843,000 in December last year (the highest monthly figure recorded since 2011).

The impact of these type of labour disputes is vast – including people having to change travel plans (for work and leisure), parents needing time off from work to care for children, the delivery of goods/ services being delayed and patients having to re-arrange hospital appointments.

HMRC workers on strike

Over 400 HMRC workers have been taking part in strikes organised for May and June this year by the Public and Commercial Services Union. During the first set of these strikes (which took place between 10th -19th  May), the online verification process was not disrupted, however construction workers who are new to register and those who’ve needed to speak to someone through the CIS helpline have reported delays and other frustrations.

Ian Anfield, Managing Director of Hudson Contract (a company that manages the payroll and CIS compliance for thousands of construction workers) commented:

“The CIS verification process, and the queries that often come from it, are incredibly important for small firms and individuals because it is the process by which at-source CIS deduction rates are decided. Sometimes those with gross [zero deduction] will come back at 20%, and those with 20% deduction will come back at 30% when verified electronically. Only HMRC officers can sort these issues out.

“The upshot, if HMRC are not adequately manning the phones, is that some subbies will suffer higher than necessary CIS deductions, and given the tax year has just begun, they will have a long wait to get that money back next April – not great whilst small firms are fighting inflationary pressures, and during a cost of living crisis for sole-traders.”

The HMRC strike action is set to continue for another two weeks (between 22nd May – 2nd June).

In an attempt to limit the disruption, HMRC is redeploying staff during this period but there is still likely to be further impacts, not only on CIS, but also in relation to PAYE and self-assessments.


Feature image: Freepik