A large increase in the number of New Zealanders seeking tax refunds this year meant that almost 170,000 calls had to be turned away by Inland Revenue’s contact centre during June.
Patrick Crawford, Inland Revenue’s Group Manager Customer Services, has thanked New Zealanders for their patience during what could have been a frustrating time.
“I want to apologise to any customers who had to try several times when calling us during the tax refund season. The demand on our contact centres was literally ‘through the roof’, with nearly 200,000 more calls than expected during June,” Mr Crawford said.
A significant proportion of the calls we turned away would have been from people repeatedly trying to get through, he said.
Greater than expected use of Inland Revenue’s online services had ironically contributed to the unprecedented demand on the department’s contact centres.
“So far this year a record 342,014 customers have filed their tax refund request via their myIR account, nearly 60,000 more than last year. When someone files online for the first time, they often call us once or twice as well to make sure they’ve done everything right.”
Mr Crawford said when someone creates a new myIR account, they may also need to call to activate it. In June 2017, 40,154 new accounts were activated whereas in June 2016 there were only 26,446 activations – a jump of 52%.
Media coverage about tax refunds was also likely to be driving the increase in calls, he said.
In addition, many calls involved complex tax issues as customers became more knowledgeable, resulting in calls taking on average nearly three minutes longer.
“When calls take longer than planned, this has a flow-on impact on other customers having to wait a bit more to be answered, creating a snowball effect.
“We put a lot of effort into forecasting the volume of calls we expect to receive, and allocate the right number of staff to answer them. This year demand has exceeded our forecast and we’ll be reviewing our service to make appropriate adjustments next year.”