Nine in ten complaints against HMRC upheld

Nine in ten complaints about HM Revenue & Customs get independently upheld, indicating that customers who take issue with the taxman have a high chance of being proved right.

Figures from the Adjudicator’s Office show that of the 2,311 complaints against HMRC that the watchdog recently dealt with, 2,073 went in favour, or partly in favour, of the taxpayer.

As a result, the Revenue has paid £104,000 for “worry and distress” caused to taxpayers, all of whom had their initial two complaints rejected when it was up to HMRC to assess them.

The department was also told by the office to pay £143,000 for “poor complaints handling,” such as when staff show “no sense of urgency when making decisions on customer issues.”

Highlighting this as one of her bugbears, Adjudicator Judy Clements was most critical where such a lack of consideration was given to complainants who were vulnerable.

Pointing to her HMRC cases, including 1,087 new ones (there are just 27 at the Valuation Office Agency and only 17 at the Insolvency Service); she said its communication with affected taxpayers was “poor.”

“I still see far too many cases where a conversation with the customer early on would have enabled a straightforward resolution to the issue,” Ms Clements reflected.

“Some areas of departments that are not customer-facing may now be in danger of being left behind in their understanding of complaints handling and customer service.”

But the Revenue has a different outlook. Edward Troup, HMRC’s second permanent secretary, spoke of being “confident” that HMRC would soon offer its customers a “better experience”.

He said there had been “many improvements” in how taxpayer complaints are handled, the system for which is still three-fold, with the Adjudicator’s Office being the final, third tier.

The tax authority will be disappointed though because, due to 90% of complaints against it in the 12 months to March being upheld, it has written off almost £4million in demanded tax.

Aug 18, 2014
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