HMRC complaints process

By Tolley in association with Simon Oakes

The following Owner-Managed Businesses guidance note by Tolley in association with Simon Oakes provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • HMRC complaints process
  • Introduction
  • HMRC’s three-tier complaints process
  • What happens if the complaint is upheld?
  • The Parliamentary Ombudsman
  • Scope of HMRC’s complaints process
  • Other factors for advisers to take into account
  • HMRC disputes, complaints and the legal alternatives


When HMRC has acted mistakenly, unreasonably, disproportionately, unfairly or not in accordance with its published guidance, redress can be sought through an accessible and customer-focused complaints process.

In the right circumstances, HMRC’s complaints process can be used to provide an effective and economical means of seeking redress. This applies across the whole spectrum of taxes work, not just to HMRC investigations or straightforward service delivery failures. It is not a universal panacea, but it is an option that tax advisers should always consider when HMRC has got it wrong or acted unreasonably.

The purpose of this guidance note is to explain how this process can be used effectively. It draws on published case studies provided by the Adjudicator’s annual reports as illustrative examples.

HMRC’s three-tier complaints process

HMRC has a three-tier complaints process. The first two tiers are handled within the relevant HMRC business unit, and it is there to which any complaint should be sent (see below). All taxpayers are entitled to make complaints, and they may be made by telephone, in person or in writing. They can also be made by agents on behalf of their clients.

HMRC’s guidance defines a complaint as “[a]ny expression of dissatisfaction that is not resolved at initial contact and requires a response”. However, for the avoidance of doubt it is good practice at the start of a complaint letter to make it clear this is an issue that requires dealing with by HMRC’s complaints process.

Relevant HMRC business unit

This is the HMRC business area that dealt with, or is currently dealing with, the subject matter of the complaint. For practical purpose, this means the complaint should be sent to the address of the officer who dealt with, or is dealing with, the issue in question. That does not

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