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TAX NEWS

Adjudicator reports on HMRC complaints

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Published: 21 Jun 2022 Update History

Complaints about HMRC received by the independent Adjudicator fell in 2021/22 but remain above pre-pandemic levels. ICAEW’s Tax Faculty summarises the annual report.

Complaints about HMRC dropped by 19% (to 1,029) as the complaints about COVID-19 support schemes became less of an issue. However, the overall number of complaints remains higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Of the resolved complaints about HMRC, 32% were either fully or partially upheld. This is a higher level than the previous year, which was suppressed due to the number of COVID-19 support scheme complaints, where the Adjudicator has limited remit and HMRC has limited discretion.

The Adjudicator, Helen Megarry, reports that in 2021/22, her office was able to maintain performance, service levels and commitment to supporting learning from complaints. She continues to stress to HMRC that a focus on a target-based numeric system will not encourage a forward-looking culture of learning from complaints.

The Adjudicator’s office sees the HMRC Charter as a driver for root and branch change, focused on the needs of the customer. It is developing mechanisms for feedback directly on delivery of services against all aspects of the Charter and holding HMRC to account on those commitments.

In previous reports, the Adjudicator commented on an inconsistency of approach and attitude to complaints and learning within HMRC, and lack of clear accountability to creating a positive complaint environment at a senior level. This report is more positive about HMRC’s progress towards a more transformational approach to complaint handling and learning.

The Adjudicator’s Head of Office, Mike McMahon, reports that while the office has worked well with HMRC’s core business, interaction with the IT program delivery functions has been more challenging. A new case management system, developed jointly with HMRC, has not been delivered on time.

The report includes seven case studies. Case study six, which was upheld, concerns HMRC paying reasonable agent costs. This may be of particular interest to ICAEW members in practice.

In his comments in the report, Jim Harra, HMRC’s First Permanent Secretary and Chief Executive, acknowledges that: “As HMRC works to restore normal service standards, we recognise that some customers may experience delays as we work through our backlog.” HMRC is committed to publishing its response to the report in autumn 2022.

Caroline Miskin, of ICAEW’s Tax Faculty, says: “It will be interesting to see whether the current dissatisfaction many have expressed about HMRC’s service performance is reflected in next year’s report. It will only do so if complaints are made and taken though the two-stage process within HMRC and then on to the Adjudicator”. 

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