When the taxman gets it wrong

By Steven Pinhey, Tax Director

Nobody likes receiving bad or an unacceptable service and that's no different when it comes to dealing with the taxman.

Unfortunately, whilst HMRC want to give a service that is based on 'mutual trust and respect' and have a Charter detailing exactly what you can expect from them, they sometimes come up short. This isn't entirely surprising for a department that has 56,000 staff dealing with more than 45 million individuals and 5.2 million businesses.

But how should we deal with the taxman when we believe that he/she has acted badly either with unacceptable delays, mistakes or in your treatment by them?

The first thing to do is to speak to your accountant.  He or she will be best placed to deal with HMRC.  Taking a DIY approach by calling or writing to the inspector yourself is fraught with potential disaster, could be detrimental to your position and is best left to the professionals. 

What your accountant should do first is to express your dissatisfaction and outline exactly what your complaint is and your desired outcome. If we find that we cannot deal effectively with the first HMRC person, we will ask for the complaint to be escalated straightaway.

If we remain unhappy with the response we receive, HMRC will appoint someone else internally look at the facts to ensure that their original view is correct and nothing has been overlooked.

Following HMRC's second review if we are still dissatisfied with their decision we will ask the independent Adjudicator to look at the complaint. Interestingly the latest statistics from the Adjudicator's Office indicate that 85% of cases taken to the Adjudicator against HMRC  were either 'substantially' or 'partially upheld' resulting in nearly £3 million being paid out in redresses.

Whilst traditionally we may have been seen as a country that doesn't like to complain, there are times when complaining is the right and appropriate action to take. Only by our raising complaints about unacceptable services will HMRC be encouraged to improve their service standards.

If you are concerned about the handling of your case by the taxman and would like discreet, confidential advice on how this could be remedied, speak to Steven Pinhey, our Tax Disputes and Resolution Director who has extensive experience resolving issues with HMRC's service delivery.  Please feel free to call or email him. stevenpinhey@lubbockfine.co.uk, 020 7490 7766.

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