Adjudicator’s report cites HMRC’s service shortcomings

An annual report that looks at complaints made against HMRC has been published by the Adjudicator’s Office (“AO”).

Helen Magarry, who left the role just a few months ago, prepared her seventh and last annual report for Adjudicator’s Office for the year 2023.

What is the role of the Adjudicator?

It was established in 1993 that the role of Adjudicator would provide an independent tier for handling complaints for HMRC. A complaint or review request is evaluated based on the factual evidence of the complaint or review request.

The AO is responsible for providing a free, impartial, and independent service, investigating all complaints within their remit. When handling complaints, HMRC must demonstrate skill and understanding.

Report findings

The AO received 950 complaints regarding HMRC during the reporting period. It is an increase of 15% from last year, which led to a 47% upheld rate (including fully and partially). The Adjudicator resolved 630 HMRC complaints in 2022/23. There were 293 partial or fully upheld complaints, 41 more than in 2022/23.

Despite some areas of HMRC’s complaints recovering from some pandemic disruptions, their performance has not yet fully recovered, according to the Annual Report. The report acknowledges a significant backlog of complaints which is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until well into next year.

Helen Megarry, Adjudicator said: ‘‘We continue to receive high numbers of complaints from customers who have not managed to complete HMRC’s internal complaint process. Increasing numbers of customers, often vulnerable, are stuck in the system for long periods with little or no meaningful response from HMRC. Although we understand the context of operational resource pressure because this is an issue that we have given feedback on before, we undertook further research into those cases. We have fed back to HMRC our insight into the issues that contribute to this ongoing poor complaint handling.

I do not underestimate the task that lies ahead but having come so far, the prize will not materialise without comprehensive plans to implement and embed change, including addressing culture. I recognise the constant pressure that HMRC is under, delivering service on a massive operational scale while responding to an ever-changing landscape, significant economic pressure and delivering on its transformational agenda.’’

Our experience

As a firm, we understand the importance of holding HMRC to account, especially where poor service leads to severe delays, and an unnecessary increase in professional fees incurred in relation to HMRC’s delay or excessive interest charges accruing in relation to unresolved liabilities.

We have found HMRC’s complaints process to be a useful resource, providing an independent voice to establish contact with decision makers and to escalate matters through HMRC’s chain of command, providing additional resource to progress matters when delay begins to accrue.

We routinely identify situations where unnecessary expense has been incurred by clients, and have successfully pursued a number wasted costs claims, obtaining reimbursements of many thousands of pounds of professional fees.

How can we help?

Should you wish to discuss these matters further or indeed require expert advice, please contact Senior Tax Partner, Anthony Rose.

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