The state of HMRC’s customer service has been laid bare in the newly published Adjudicator’s Office 2014 Annual Report. The Adjudicator’s Office, run by Judy Clements OBE, is the independent complaints regulator for HMRC, the Valuation Office Agency and The Insolvency Service, and is tasked with openly and fairly arbitrating complaints from individuals and business about those bodies.

The 2014 Annual Report covers the period from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014, during which the Adjudicator received 1,087 new complaints about the taxman. The majority of the complaints related to PAYE, and amongst this group the proportion upheld rose to 94%. The Adjudicator noted that she saw “a number of complaints where HMRC staff failed to consider the circumstances of vulnerable customers and where communication was poor”, but that “HMRC accepted all [her] recommendations.”

For the cases settled in the period covered by the report – 2,311 – HMRC agreed to shell out around £4.4 million in redress payments, meaning an average payout of around £1,900 for those taking their issues to the Adjudicator.

In one example provided by the Adjudicator, HMRC raised a taxpayer’s tax code from Basic Rate to Higher Rate, which was disputed by the taxpayer, known as “Mrs A”.

Mrs A  requested a numerical analysis of her income from HMRC to justify her new, higher tax rate. HMRC failed to provide the analysis, and Mrs A took her case to the Adjudicator, where it was upheld.

HMRC’s Edward Troup, Tax Assurance Commissioner and Second Permanent Secretary, responded to the report:

“We fully recognise the pressures that our past performance has put on Judy Clements and her team and are very appreciative both of the work she has done over the last year and for her constructive feedback and challenge.”

“Judy’s presentations at our annual conferences on complaints and Board level meetings over the last year have helped develop the relationship between HMRC and The Adjudicator and build a shared vision of the standards of customer service we should aspire to. Many of the improvements we have put in place have arisen from her input and we are confident that this strong foundation will enable us to deliver a better experience for customers and as well as make our business more efficient.”

You can read the full report here (PDF).

Photo via HMRC