The Adjudicator’s Office Annual Report 2023 highlights that HMRC’s complaints handling performance has not fully recovered post-pandemic and a divergence in service levels between departments. In a separate letter to the Treasury Committee, HMRC said the suspension of Self Assessment helplines was a pilot project.
The Adjudicator's Office, created in 1993, is an independent tier of complaint handling for HMRC and the Valuation Office Agency. It revealed that:
- The Adjudicator received 950 complaints about HMRC for investigation.
- This is compared to 1,029 in the previous year.
- The upheld rate (including full and partial) increased to 47%, up 15%. Casework has almost entirely transitioned back to non-COVID complaints.
It found that a large number of complaints are raised prematurely by those who have been unable to successfully navigate HMRC’s internal complaints system.
- The seasonal model for the Self Assessment helpline was a pilot project.
- The adoption of digital and assisted-digital services is central to HMRC’s vision to be a trusted and modern tax authority.
- Customer satisfaction scores are significantly higher for HMRC's digital services than for traditional phone and post services.
- Self Assessment query demand is seasonal, with calls around 50% higher between January and April compared with June to August.
- This pilot is not related to flexible working policies in any way.
The Adjudicator's report and HMRC response to the Treasury Committee has been published following a recent series of service changes by HMRC:
- HMRC closed their VAT registration helpline on Monday 22 May 2023. Outstanding applications can now be chased up via email.
- HMRC extended the trial of using text messages to redirect helpline callers to online services covering:
- Proof of entitlement document for child benefit.
- Voluntary National Insurance Contributions and checking national insurance record.
- Applying for, amending, or cancelling Marriage allowance.
- Checking for receipt of a voluntary national insurance payment.
- When to expect a reply from HMRC.
The Adjudicator's report did recognise that HMRC have acted on most of the substantive recommendations to improve the governance of complaints over her years in office. This includes:
- Providing explicit senior sponsorship and accountability for complaints.
- Adopting common complaint-handling standards to apply across HMRC’s activities.
- Adopting a complaint strategy to embrace transformational learning.
- Putting in place structures to enable cross-departmental action on complaint learning.
However, while the report pointed to good practice in the Customer Compliance Group, there was less progress in the Customer Services Group.
Useful guides on this topic
Self Assessment Return 2022/23: What's new?
2023 Self Assessment toolkit: top tips for completing tax returns for the year ending 5 April 2023.
Registering for VAT
When should a business register for and charge VAT? What are the VAT registration thresholds? What penalties might HMRC issue for late notification of registration? When do you need to file a VAT return?
How to appeal an HMRC decision
Disagree with an HMRC decision? How to appeal, what type of decision can you appeal and what are your different options when you disagree with HMRC? What are the key steps in making an appeal?
HMRC letter to Harriett Baldwin MP, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee