HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have been criticised for not informing taxpayers who dispute their bills that they have the right to have their tax complaint heard by the Adjudicator. 158,598 complaints have been made over ‘unfair demands’ since September 2010 out of which Daily Mail’s Money Sense states that: “Of these complaints, 40,827 appeals have so far been upheld and 117,771 rejected. Yet up to April last year just 716 people had taken their case to the independent Adjudicator’s Office. “By this date, 83,700 people had already been rejected. This means only one in every 120 complaints thrown out is ever judged independently. Yet once a case reaches the Adjudicator, around one in every four is upheld.
“This could mean almost 30,000 rejected cases could be overturned by the Adjudicator, giving a reprieve to those now lumbered with bills of more than £1,500.”
The majority of taxpayers complaining of unfair tax demands from HMRC are those innocently unaware that they had not paid the correct amount of income tax or National Insurance payments. HM Revenue and Customs began receiving a higher volume of customer complaints from September 2010 after it was revealed that nearly 6 million taxpayers had been paying the wrong amount of tax. HMRC have been criticised for failing to properly highlight taxpayers’ rights to take their rejected appeal to the Adjudicator, as they have reportedly only given taxpayers who filed a complaint and were turned down a website address for the Adjudicators Office and not a telephone number or contact address.
On-top of lack of knowledge of rights a further hindrance to tax payers contending unfair tax demands has been the breakdown of the efficiency of HMRC’s customer service, which left tax payers endlessly waiting on the phone to speak with a tax official and months for a reply to be delivered by the postman. Money Mail has said that “people making complaints to HMRC are unaware they can have their case reviewed by an independent referee.”
Taxpayers that have had a complaint closed by HMRC can challenge the rejection of their appeal by contacting the Adjudicators Office. An independent body, The Adjudicator’s Office analyses taxpayer complaints about HMRC and mistakes that may have been made. Factors the Adjudicator’s Office will look at are dependent on an individual’s circumstance and investigate cases of misleading information, HMRC’s use of discretion and unreasonable delays. In 2010 and 2011 alone the Adjudicator’s Office handled 716 disputes (not including tax credit complaints).
HMRC is obliged to inform taxpayers of the Adjudicator when they have closed a case, although there is currently no fixed time limit of when this should be done. A spokesman for HMRC, said: “We clearly set out details of how to refer a complaint once the internal review has been exhausted.”
If you have had a tax dispute or complaint rejected by HMRC’s internal review then you can take your appeal to the Adjudicator. Remember to include copies of all relevant correspondence, documents and bills relating to your appeal. The Adjudicator’s Office can be contacted by calling 0300 057 1111 or 020 7667 1832.
Alternatively you can write to the Adjudicator’s Office at: 8th Floor Euston tower, 286 Euston Road, London, NW1 3US.
Kevin Kinsella Jnr, of KinsellaTax, said:
“This is an absolute disgrace, like parking tickets that don’t tell you how to appeal. Horrible if you are right. Why on earth don’t you show clearly that there is a form of appeal one can use and a third party can adjudicate, or is it that HMRC would lose more appeals than wins.
“It is a shame that Mr. Hartnett didn’t spend more time giving ordinary taxpayers a more decent and fair service. Yes, tax evaders bring in more publicity if one is on an ego trip but the poor old regular taxpayer seems to pay the price at the end of the day.”
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KinsellaTax staff consists of ex-HM Inspector of Taxes and ex-HM Custom and Excise Officers.