Complaining about HMRC

Once you become self employed you will discover the delights of flexibility, freedom and independence in your working life.

You will also discover the responsibility of managing your own accounts and tax. You may sail through the maze of Self Assessment and IR35 and emerge unscathed by your dealings with the Taxman. If you have been prudent enough to put a bit extra aside to cope with unexpected tax demands, and have prepared thoroughly for the possibility of an Inland Revenue enquiry, you may never have cause to complain. On the other hand…….

The list of things about which you might (one day) have cause to complain is seemingly endless. Think about it, tax law (the Taxes Management Act) is a huge legal tome which no single human being could ever hope to master in its entirety. There is a team of forty tax experts, led by a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who have been re-writing (that's re-writing and not reforming) tax law for the past seven years. And they are not even half-way through. If you add to the complexity (and possible ambiguity) of tax law the long list of Inland Revenue guidelines and codes of practice – and throw into the pot the fact that the Inland Revenue is always duty bound to strive towards the interests of the Treasury (and, by definition, against the interests of the taxpayer) – you have a recipe guaranteed to ensure there will always be some taxpayers who feel they get a raw deal.

Despite the fact that the Inland Revenue promises to treat taxpayers impartially, no Taxman would ever get promoted if he always put the taxpayers' interests above the Inland Revenue's.

So, having put it all into perspective, what do you do when you believe you have been unfairly, unreasonably and unjustly treated?

First of all, you must separate out the tax computation side of your complaint from the actual treatment you have received. If you disagree with the maths, then take your complaint to the Commissioners. If you feel the manner in which your case was handled then take your complaint up with the Adjudicator.

The Adjudicator operates independently from the Inland Revenue and will review the manner in which the Revenue dealt with you and your tax to see whether there is just cause for criticism. If she upholds your complaint and agrees with you that there were mistakes and mishandlings, she will instruct the Revenue to apologise and possibly compensate you financially.

Any payments recommended by the Adjudicator will be intended to put you back in the position you should have been in had the Revenue's mistakes not occurred. If you look at the Adjudicator's website, you will see examples of complaints by taxpayers and the decisions as to whether those complaints were upheld or not. You can contact the Adjudicator by visiting the website .

Alternatively, you can ask your MP to refer your complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman who will prepare an in-depth report on your case and make any recommendations he feels appropriate if your complaint is upheld. You can contact your MP through the directory on the Parliament website

Whichever route you decide to go down, you must prepare a comprehensive report on your case, including copies of correspondence, statements and schedules of telephone conversations.

Article by tax specialist Angela Brooks Wong