Majority of complaints against HMRC upheld

Thursday 7 August 2014

Contractors that choose to fight their case against HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have a good chance of winning, new figures suggest.

Data from the Adjudicator's Office has shown that the majority of complaints against the tax body are independently upheld.

Nine in ten cases fall in favour of the customer, with 2,073 complaints out of 2,311 fully or partly upheld.

As a result, HMRC has paid £104,000 to taxpayers to compensate for the "worry and distress" caused when their first two complaints were rejected by HMRC.

"My goal is always to provide the high standards of service our customers have the right to expect, and this has been at the heart of our work resulting in a new record in the 21 year history of this office for cases closed in a single year," Judy Clements, the adjudicator, wrote. "We successfully resolved 2,350 complaints in the first year of our Recovery Plan, nearly 1,000 more than 2012-13."

HMRC has now been ordered by the Adjudicator's Office to pay £143,000 for 'poor complaints handling'. An example of this may be when staff demonstrate no sense of urgency when dealing with customer issues. This in particular is one of Ms Clements' bugbears, especially when it comes to claimants who are vulnerable.  

The adjudicator added that there are one too many instances where communication with taxpayers is poor. In one case, a taxpayer - who will be known as Mrs A - was unhappy because HMRC changed her tax code for the start of the tax year from a basic to a higher rate. The claimant did not agree she needed to pay this.

HMRC had also told Mrs A that her tax affairs were up to date but then sent her a request to pay an amount the tax body had previously paid to her. Mrs A asked for a numeric analysis of her tax position, which wasn't given.

When the case was taken to the Adjudicator's Office, it was upheld. It was ruled that while the claimant was required to pay a higher rate, HMRC had not explained themselves properly and did not give clear advice.

The tax body recognised that they had not provided her with the numerical response requested, which would have enabled Mrs A to check her own position. What's more, HMRC accepted that the legal deadline for recovering the over repaid tax had passed and they made a refund on this.

Edward Troup, tax assurance commissioner and second permanent secretary at HMRC, said: "We fully recognise the pressures that our past performance has put on Judy Clements and her team and are very appreciative both of the work she has done over the last year and for her constructive feedback and challenge.

"Judy’s presentations at our annual conferences on complaints and Board level meetings over the last year have helped develop the relationship between HMRC and The Adjudicator and build a shared vision of the standards of customer service we should aspire to."

By Victoria McDonnell

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