Time to Complain

Published on 14 February 2005

It is six years since LITRG first made a range of suggestions as to how the Inland Revenue could improve its complaints handling. Some small improvements have been made over that time, but generally there is a long way still to go, particularly in the handling of complaints from people on low incomes. With the merger of the Revenue with Customs & Excise to form HMRC the opportunity is there to take the best practices in complaints handling from both organisations and from elsewhere.

LITRG is critical of the existing position because:

  • often the time taken to deal with a complaint is inordinately long and the acknowledgment slow
  • the Revenue process forces complainants through junior levels before getting to someone prepared to make a decision
  • often there is a failure to see the complaint from a complainant's perspective
  • the recognition and recording of complaints is often inadequate
  • complainants are forced, particularly in tax credits cases, to involve the Adjudicator and the Ombudsman far too early in a process, out of desperation
  • the Revenue finds it difficult to take a holistic view of a taxpayer/claimant who may have many contact points with the organisation, which leads to piecemeal handling of a complaint
  • the Revenue has been unable to accept e-mail complaints, unlike many government departments
  • there is no facility to complain to a single point of contact and for the Revenue to sort out which part of its empire to involve
  • where Revenue error or delay has been a major factor, the Revenue can be slow in offering proactive redress and informing the complainant of their rights
  • customer service standards, which provide a yardstick for what to expect in terms of turnaround times and so on, are hard to find and slow to be published

LITRG would like HMRC to offer:

  • the choice between a central complaints contact point or speaking to the person who last dealt with you
  • a simpler, shorter complaints process
  • complaints by e-mail accepted
  • a ten day turnaround for reviewing the complaint and replying, either in full or indicating when a full reply will be available
  • a named individual taking control of the whole complaint, even if more than one part of HMRC is involved
  • better training for HMRC staff in recognising and handling complaints
  • service standards published before the year of operation so the customer can know what standards to expect
  • more publicity about how to complain
  • compensation for distress without waiting to be asked

The Revenue's procedures for complaints and compensation are described in their leaflet Code of Practice 1 Putting things right How to complain

The LITRG's own guidance on how to complain about the Inland Revenue can be found by clicking on the link below.


Contact Name: John Andrews (Tel: 0844 579 6700, Fax: 0844 579 6701)