HMRC complaints reach highest level in seven years

The number of complaints received by HMRC have reached their highest number since the global financial crisis.

The data was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request by Top 20 firm Saffery Champness, finding HMRC had “bitten off more than it can chew”.

HMRC handled a total of 81,066 complaints in the year 2015/16, 7,000 more than a year earlier and 16,000 more than 2013/14. Complaints were at their highest in 2008/09, at 83,917.


Source: HMRC data provided under Safferys’ FOI

Lucy Brennan, partner at Saffery Champness, said: “In seeking large quantities of data, the administrative costs of the rising number of complaints and investigations will cost HMRC more, rather than raising additional efficient revenue.”

A HMRC spokesperson said: “We apologise to the customers that we have let down. We take complaints very seriously and we want people to tell us when we make mistakes or our service falls short so we can improve our systems and services.”

HMRC expects to see complaint numbers drop in 2016/17. The news comes following the recent closure of five Making Tax Digital consultations, and concerns about the viability of the project to have taxpayers report quarterly.

Brennan, added: “HMRC’s digital drive may have long-term advantages, but with it aiming to go fully digital by 2020, more and more people are coming into contact with the new digital services and are inevitably coming up against obstacles.”

James Hender, partner and head of the private wealth group, Saffery Champness, added: “By cutting back resources and rolling out a complex digital system at the same time, taxpayers and businesses have been left with real concerns and grievances; the numbers speak for themselves.”

Independent bodies, such as the National Audit Office, doubt HMRC’s ability to deal with the large volumes of complaints over the implementation of MTD, there are concerns over strategy and taxpayer unrest.

Brennan concluded: “Many taxpayer services have been withdrawn, guidance on key issues such as on non-dom policy has been largely absent.”

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