HMRC’s Complaint Handling: What You Need to Know
Navigating the world of taxes can sometimes be challenging, and occasionally, you may find yourself in a situation where you feel the need to raise a complaint with HMRC. With the recent temporary closure of HMRC’s self-assessment phone service, and its move towards digital service channels, understanding how to navigate their complaint system is essential.
A Shift to Digital:
HMRC recently paused its self-assessment phone service for three months, opting instead to channel queries through its digital services. The decision aimed to free up staff resources for pressing matters, resulting in taxpayers needing to pen a letter for contact. With calls being redirected to online platforms like digital assistants and webchat, the change has been significant for many.
Understanding the Complaints Process:
Initiation: The process begins with an online form, detailing the nature of your complaint. This is the starting point for most grievances with HMRC.
Tier 1: This is the primary level where HMRC reviews the complaint based on records. A representative is assigned to manage your complaint and communicate the results. While most complaints are resolved at this stage, there’s a provision for escalation if you’re dissatisfied.
Tier 2: If not content with the Tier 1 outcome, your complaint moves to Tier 2. Here, a different representative re-evaluates the case. Only about 7% of complaints make it to this level.
Adjudicator’s Office (AO): If you’re still unsatisfied post the Tier 2 review, the complaint can be reviewed by the AO – an independent entity. The AO focuses on specific complaint categories, including errors, delays, misleading advice, and staff behaviour. The head of HMRC is notified every time a complaint reaches the AO.
Further Appeals: Beyond the AO, if the resolution is still not satisfactory, one can escalate to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) through their local MP.
Compensation & Redress:
In situations where HMRC’s mistake has caused undue stress or financial burden, you may be eligible for compensation. Typically, these compensations cater to tangible costs, such as postage or phone charges. For extreme inconveniences, ‘worry or distress’ compensation may apply, but these are usually modest.
The AO, in its capacity, can recommend compensation amounts. In 2022/23, it advised HMRC to pay £303,799 in compensations. However, the low volume of complaints reaching the AO suggests that many may not be aware or opt not to endure the lengthy process.
HMRC handles a considerable number of complaints each year, but only a fraction makes it to the Adjudicator’s Office. While the complaints process can be long-winded, consuming time and resources, it’s crucial to be aware of your rights and the avenues available should you need them. Remember, while you’re navigating the complaints process, penalties and interest might still accrue, so it’s essential to stay proactive and informed.
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