Ask The Taxwise Expert: Raising a complaint with the HMRC

Peninsula Team

November 26 2013

I have been dealing with HMRC with regards to a PAYE matter and am not at all happy about the way in which HMRC have handled the matter.  What options do I have with regards to seeking redress? Firstly, it is crucial that you inform HMRC at the earliest possible opportunity, of any dissatisfaction e.g. unreasonable delays, HMRC mistakes and/or unacceptable treatment by HMRC staff, whether perceived or otherwise.  You can do this by contacting the person that you have been dealing with at HMRC.  Alternatively if you do not have a specific point of contact, or do not feel comfortable raising your concerns with the person you have been dealing with direct, you should contact the appropriate HMRC helpline (e.g. Self-Assessment, National Insurance, VAT, Employer helplines) and explain that you wish to lodge a formal complaint and ask to be put in touch with a dedicated Complaint Handler.  Staff on the helplines will take a note of the main issues and refer this to the Complaints Team, after which a dedicated Complaints Handler will be assigned to the case and will contact you direct. Even with HMRC’s backlog of post, it is advisable to put any complaint in writing.   All letters of complaint should include your full contact details and any tax reference numbers (e.g. UTR/VAT Registration Number) and should be marked prominently ‘Formal Complaint’ or ‘Complaint Case’, as HMRC aim to identify and prioritise such letters when opening the post; although this is not to say some don’t slip through the net. The content of any complaint letter should be as comprehensive as possible and should cover the areas of what has gone wrong, including a list of events as they have happened, the names of the people you have spoken with at HMRC and the advice that was given and/or action(s) taken.  You should express what effect HMRC’s actions have had on you and include details of what you hope the outcome will be, whether this be a letter of apology, a compensation payment and/or some other outcome. HMRC’s redress policy allows the reimbursement of ‘reasonable’ costs incurred as a direct consequence of their mistakes and/or unreasonable delays, but you must be able to demonstrate that such costs (e.g. postage, phone calls, and professional fees) were actually incurred by retaining the relevant receipts for inspection by HMRC, if requested. Furthermore, HMRC may make a small payment to acknowledge or apologise for the worry and distress caused by their actions, if they consider this appropriate. The Caseworker or dedicated Complaint Handler should acknowledge receipt of your complaint and provide a date by when they expect to provide you with a full response.  The aim is to respond to all complaints within 15 working days, but this will not always be possible, particularly where the issues raised are of a complex nature.

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