Adjudicator Canes Taxman

The Adjudicator’s Office has published its annual report for year ended 31 March 2013. The Adjudicator’s role is to investigate complaints from individuals and businesses unhappy about the handling of the complaints by HM Revenue & Customs. The highlight of the Adjudicator’s report is her expression of dismay about the massive increase in poor handling of complaints by the taxman.

When taxpayers are dissatisfied about the way a case is being dealt with they can make a complaint to the local office management. If they are unhappy with that response they can make a 2nd level complaint to a more independent person within HMRC. If they still remain unhappy they can refer the complaint to the Adjudicator’s Office.

For the year ended 31 March 2013 The adjudicator’s Office received 1,331 new complaints about HMRC.  24% of these were substantially upheld, 37% were partially upheld.  In other words, about 2 out of 3 of all complaints about HMRC to the Adjudicator’s Office are upheld. This is despite the fact that HMRC have had 2 previous attempts to rectify the complaints before the Adjudicator even gets involved.

The Adjudicator can look at complaints about: mistakes; unreasonable delay; poor and misleading advice; inappropriate HMRC staff behaviour; and the use, or failure to use, discretion.  The Adjudicator’s Office has 135 staff based in offices in: London; Nottingham; Derby; Liverpool; and Newcastle.

In addition to investigating the complaints the Adjudicator can award compensation for various reasons. This year the amount of compensation awarded was: for “worry and distress” was £10,405; for “poor complaint handling”, £10,365; HMRC was made to give up tax of £210,138; and tax advisers’ costs reimbursed totalled £123,413 – so HMRC had to pay the tax adviser for making the complaint about them!.

The Adjudicator said that she was “disappointed” at the “astonishing” levels of poor complaint handling by HMRC. She went on, “For HMRC I have identified a number of areas where there are systemic failures resulting in poor complaints handling… Frequent and repetitive types of issues include: failure to follow policy or proper procedure; mistakes; giving inaccurate information; and recording incorrect details”.

Should I complain about HMRC?

The time and effort needed firstly to get through HMRC’s own complaints procedure means that only a resilient taxpayer is likely to take their case all the way.  It has to be said that pursuing a complaint against HMRC can be a soul-destroying task.  But where taxpayers feel ground down by the inflexible state machinery and the jobs-worth mentality of certain bureaucrats there is at least a remedy of sorts.  Bear in mind that before complaints reach the Adjudicator you first have to approach the inspector’s line manager.  You can then start the formal complaints procedure; going ‘off-line’ for a 2nd review, involving another HMRC official. Only then if you are still frustrated do you need to approach the Adjudicator.  Yet this reports show that even after HMRC have carried out their own reviews at 2 levels (at least) they still make serious mistakes in over 1,000 cases – each and every year!

Do I Need Professional Help?
Where substantial sums are involved (or may be due in compensation) then it can be very worthwhile employing professionals experienced in finding their way through the bureaucratic maze.
Lynam Tax Dispute Experts have decades of experience in sorting out contentious issues with the taxman.

For a free and totally confidential initial discussion call Paul Lynam now on:  0845 643 9997,  or Andrew Nutbrown on 07718 778710
NB. Lynam Tax does not deal with working family tax credit issues.