HMRC are officially rubbish- Adjudicator upholds 90% of complaints

23 July 2014

tax manYou are probably familiar with the concept of an Ombudsman, an independent reviewer who will review the facts of a case once the normal complaints procedure has been exhausted, and will normally find in favour of either the complainant (usually the customer) or the retailer.

Now, we all know that HMRC no longer has victims, rather customers, and as such, it is open to complaints same as any other service provider. While there is no ombudsman for tax-collecting services, there is an Adjudicator. The Adjudicator has now published her annual report for 2013/14, which shows that an unbelievable 90% of customer complaints have been upheld- and government bodies including, and mostly HMRC, have been ordered to pay a whopping £4.4m in redress payments.

The Adjudicator provides an independent review of complaints about HMRC, as well as against the Valuation Office Agency and the Insolvency Service, although these are only a small proportion compared with the HMRC complaints.  In fact, the actual number of complaints about HMRC has gone down, a staggering 90% of taxpayers’ complaints have been upheld this last year.

There were 1,131 new complaints in 2013/14, 1,087 of which were about HMRC. This is less than half the number in 2012/13, when there was a surge in complaints, many of them about PAYE.

Of the cases resolved last year:

90% were upheld substantially or partially (61% in 2012/13)

7% were not upheld (37% in 2012/13)

3% were withdrawn or reconsidered (2% in 2012/13)

The total amount the departments paid out in redress, on the Adjudicator’s recommendation, was £4,369,258 , massively up on the £1,194,031 the year before. The total includes tax credit overpayments written off, as well as costs reimbursed and compensatory payments.  

Complaints to the Adjudicator are typically about mistakes, unreasonable delays, poor advice or inappropriate staff behaviour.

In her report, the Adjudicator noted that  HMRC had put “a lot of effort” into transforming its complaints handling, and complimented the department on “listening to her constructive criticism.”

She did, however, acknowledge the startling proportion of upheld complaints and described seeing many cases “where HMRC staff failed to consider the circumstances of vulnerable people and where communication was poor.”

Anyone else with a 90% upheld complaint rate might be looking for their P45. But still, at least HMRC are trying, right?!


  • Michael
    There is an Ombudsman for HMRC - the Parliamentary Ombudsman. However, to reduce the number of cases going to the Ombudsman the HMRC created the Adjudicator's Office to deal with complaints and try to resolve them before allowing access to the Ombudsman. Of course, it does also mean that it takes a rather long time to get to the Ombudsman if that's where you want your complaint investigated....
  • Mark W.
    It started with Self Assessment and 'process now, check later', then Tax Credits and Dawn Primarolo's finest hour, then closing all local offices and centralise everything. Oh, and expecting their IT supplier to read their mind to discover what the IT systems are aupposed to do. Amongst other things! What else does the Government expect? HMRC does what it's told!
  • Jerec
    They over paid me by £350 over about 6 months, even though I filled out all the right forms and gave them all the right info, they did this and then insisted that we repay it all immediately! I'm paying back £20 a month but now I think I'm going to appeal!
  • Mr M.
    Civil servants are useless, are we even surprised. The public sector is for those incapable of holding down a proper job in the real world.

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