Complaining about the HMRC

Once you become self-employed you will discover the delights of flexibility, freedom and independence in your working life.

You will also discover the responsibility of managing your own accounts and tax. You may sail through the maze of Self-Assessment and IR35 and emerge unscathed by your dealings with the Taxman. If you have been prudent enough to put a bit extra aside to cope with unexpected tax demands, and have prepared thoroughly for the possibility of an HMRC enquiry, you may never have cause to complain.

The list of things about which you might have cause to complain about is seemingly endless. Think about it, tax law is a huge legal tome which no single human being could ever hope to master in its entirety. The complexity and possible ambiguity of tax law, the long list of HMRC guidelines and codes of practice and the fact that the HMRC are always duty bound to strive towards the interests of the Treasury you have a recipe guaranteed to ensure there will always be some taxpayers who feel they get a raw deal.

Despite the fact that the HMRC promises to treat taxpayers impartially, no Taxman would ever get promoted if he always put the taxpayers' interests above the HMRC’s. So, having put it all into perspective, what do you do when you believe you have been unfairly, unreasonably and unjustly treated?

First of all, you must separate out the tax computation side of your complaint from the actual treatment you have received. If you disagree with the maths, then take your complaint to the Commissioners. If you feel the manner in which your case was handled then take your complaint up with the Adjudicator.

The Adjudicator operates independently from the HMRC and will review the manner in which the HMRC dealt with you and your tax to see whether there is just cause for criticism. If they uphold your complaint and agrees with you that there were mistakes and mishandlings, they will instruct the HMRC to apologise and possibly compensate you financially.

Any payments recommended by the Adjudicator will be intended to put you back in the position you should have been in had the Revenue's mistakes not occurred. If you look at the Adjudicator's website, you will see examples of complaints by taxpayers and the decisions as to whether those complaints were upheld or not.

Alternatively, you can ask your MP to refer your complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman who will prepare an in-depth report on your case and make any recommendations they feel appropriate if your complaint is upheld.  

Whichever route you decide to go down, you must prepare a comprehensive report on your case, including copies of correspondence, statements and schedules of telephone conversations.

Article by Angela Brooks Wong, Tax Relief.

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