As loyal readers know, agents, taxpayers and HMRC are all human and do on occasions make mistakes.
As loyal readers also know, there has been much banter on this site about whether mistakes made are the fault of agents, taxpayers or HMRC. Without specific statistics it is not always straightforward or easy to apportion blame.
At last some statistics, courtesy of Pinsent Masons, have entered the public domain:
- More than 58,000 complaints were received by HMRC in the year ending March 2011
- HMRC upheld grievances, at least partially, in over 33,000 cases (57% of total objections).
The grievances submitted by individuals and small businesses ranged from poor treatment by HMRC staff, to delays and errors in the tax bill.
George Gillham, legal director at Pinsent Masons, is quoted by Accountancy Age:
"The number of cases where HMRC has admitted it got something wrong is remarkable. It suggests that if you make a complaint to HMRC, they'll probably decide you're right, at least in part.The Mail notes that many of the complaints concern HMRC’s Debt Management Office (DMO), which chases taxpayers who deemed to owe money to HMRC.
Taxpayers don't always use the opportunities they have to challenge HMRC. It's important that people remember they can complain directly to HMRC if they feel unfairly treated or if they feel HMRC errors have forced them to incur financial costs."
The DMO does not judge whether HMRC is right to claim the money back, and some taxpayers have complained that it has pursued innocent people in a ‘heavy-handed’ manner.
Mr Gillham said:
"The DMO aren’t there to negotiate, so even if HMRC has made a mistake, the DMO won’t back off until it has what it’s been asked to retrieve or been informed of a mistake by HMRC.An HMRC spokesman said:
It’s a very unpleasant and distressing experience."
"HMRC serves millions of people every year, and received just under 75,000 complaints in 2011/12 (Ken says: 'Just to remind you, the number of complains in 2010/11 was 58,000').Problem solved then!
About 2 per cent of these complaints were investigated by the Adjudicator, indicating that we successfully resolve the vast majority of complaints we receive from customers.
HMRC takes complaints very seriously; we want people to be able to tell us when we make mistakes and our service falls short.
Complaints not only allow us to put things right for the individual but also tell us where we need to learn lessons and improve our services for all our customers.
We are making real improvements to our customer services, boosting staff in contact centres by 1000 (Ken says: 'We know that this is bollocks, as the staff are being taken from elsewhere') and turning around post faster than ever. Such improvements will reduce the level of complaints going forward."
Tax does have to be taxing.
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