HMRC admits mistakes in more than half of complaints

by Calum Fuller

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11 Sep 2012

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NEARLY THREE OUT OF FIVE complaints made to the taxman resulted in HMRC admitting fault, according to research conducted by law firm Pinsent Masons.

More than 58,000 complaints were received by HM Revenue & Customs in 2010/11, with the department itself upholding the grievances at least partially in more than 33,000 cases, equating to 57% of total objections.

Among the most common causes for complaint for individuals and small businesses are unreasonable delays, mistakes and poor treatment by HMRC staff.

In August, it was announced that an extra 1,000 contact staff would be taken on by the taxman in a bid to take 90% of calls made by taxpayers. That move followed an announcement by the Treasury that a quarter of tax helpline calls go unanswered, with many hanging up after waiting for an average of five minutes and 45 seconds.

George Gillham, legal director at Pinsent Masons, said: "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.

"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."

In a statement, HMRC said: "We have made real improvements to our customer services; 1,000 additional contact centre staff are to be recruited following a £34m investment and we are turning around post faster than ever. Such improvements will reduce the level of complaints going forward."

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