Official Report Reveals Taxman Wrongly Rejects Thousands Of Complaints

 In Blunder, HMRC Investigation, Investigation

An incendiary official report has laid bare how systemic failings by the taxman are causing thousands of legitimate complaints to be thrown out.

It is the first time that the plight of vulnerable and elderly taxpayers, who have had disputes about unfair bills wrongly rejected, has been formally recognised.

The devastating document exposes how ill-informed HMRC staff don’t know the rules and make basic mistakes that create undue stress and hardship for taxpayers.

For three years, Money Mail has highlighted how pensioners are being hit with massive surprise bills. Many believe they have done everything in their power to make sure HMRC has all their correct details, and were unaware that they were underpaying income tax.

Time and again, we have shown how complaints about these shock bills are being kicked out – often several times over – causing anxiety, distress and sometimes financial difficulty. Yet when Money Mail takes them to HMRC, it regularly finds in the taxpayer’s favour.

Now, the independent Tax Adjudicator – a de facto watchdog that investigates the way tax officials handle disputes – has launched her first direct attack on the way HMRC staff treat members of the public.

In her annual report, Judy Clements cites a staggering 347 per cent increase in Pay As You Earn (PAYE) investigations. She warns of ‘recurring failures in handling cases’ before they end up on her desk. Adjudicators upheld six out of every ten disputes in favour of the taxpayer – the highest-ever proportion.

She says: ‘I am disappointed at the number of complaints people feel they need to refer to me in order to get resolution.

‘I am unable to establish whether complaint handlers are not recognising their needs or feel they aren’t empowered to step outside of procedures and provide alternative support.

‘Either way, this is an area of serious concern – and, with an ageing society, a matter which will grow in importance and visibility.’

16,365 worried calls about shoddy treatment

HMRC has been under scrutiny since 2009, when a new computer system resulted in a backlog of complaints. Since then it has been attempting to get on top of bills for millions of taxpayers.

Both the National Audit Office and a cross-party group of MPs have slammed the service and the waiting times that taxpayers face when they deal with HMRC.

But neither group probed the claims made by Money Mail that taxpayers were getting poor advice from staff, and having complaints unfairly treated. Officially, the Revenue has always been reluctant to admit problems.

Until recently, the Tax Adjudicator was a little-known body used by a handful of resilient taxpayers every year. Its staff probe allegations of inadequate or misleading advice and unreasonable delays, as well as HMRC’s own use of discretion when weighing up whether it should write off a debt.

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