Guidance

Use Alternative Dispute Resolution to settle a tax dispute

How to apply for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and when you can use it to resolve a tax disagreement with HMRC.

Anyone can apply for ADR to help resolve a dispute with HMRC, or to get more information about issues that need to be taken for a legal ruling.

How ADR works

A HMRC mediator who has been trained in mediation skills and techniques will work with you and the HMRC officer dealing with your case.

They will help you both explore ways to resolve your dispute, including helping you:

  • focus on the areas that need to be resolved
  • re-establish communications, if needed

They will not take over responsibility for the dispute.

What ADR can be used for

ADR can be used before and after HMRC has issued a decision that can be appealed against, and at any stage of an enquiry, including:

  • during a compliance check when you are unable to reach an agreement with HMRC, or where progress in the enquiry has stalled
  • at the end of a compliance check, when a decision has been made that you can appeal against

ADR does not affect your right to appeal, or to ask for a statutory review.

Each application is considered on a case by case basis. ADR is not a statutory process and HMRC reserves the right to reject applications that we do not consider appropriate for ADR.

ADR can be used when:

  • communications have broken down between you and HMRC
  • there are disputes about the facts
  • a dispute appears to be the a result of a misunderstanding
  • you want to know why HMRC has not agreed evidence you have given them, and why they want to use other evidence
  • you’re not clear what information HMRC has used, and you think they may have made wrong assumptions
  • HMRC need to explain why they need more information from you

You cannot use ADR for:

  • complaints and disputes about HMRC delays in using information or giving you misleading advice – find out how to complain about HMRC
  • debt recovery or payment issues - find out what to do if you cannot pay your tax bill on time
  • disputes about tax credits - find out how to appeal or complain about tax credits
  • disputes over default surcharges
  • automatic late payment or late filing penalties
  • PAYE coding notices
  • Extra-Statutory Concessions
  • cases that HMRC’s criminal investigators are dealing with
  • pension liberation schemes
  • High Income Child Benefit Charges
  • disputes about the National Minimum Wage
  • accelerated payments and follower notices
  • cases the First Tier Tax Tribunal have categorised as ‘paper’ or ‘basic’

Read the ADR - CC/FS21 factsheet if you need more information to decide if ADR is right for you.

You may still be able to disagree with a tax decision if you cannot use ADR.

When you can apply

You can apply for ADR at any stage of an enquiry.

However, if you have already lodged an appeal at the First Tier Tax Tribunal and HMRC’s Statement of Case has been served (or is due within 10 days of you applying for ADR) your application will only be accepted in exceptional circumstances.

Direct tax disputes after HMRC has made a decision

Direct taxes include:

  • Income Tax
  • Corporation Tax
  • Inheritance Tax

You can apply for ADR when HMRC has made a decision about a direct tax issue you have appealed against and have taken one of the following actions:

  • accepted the appeal, but have not offered you a statutory review
  • offered you a statutory review that you have accepted - you must wait for the review to end, appeal to the tribunal and have the appeal accepted before applying
  • offered you a statutory review that you have not accepted - you must appeal to the tribunal first, and have the appeal accepted before applying

Indirect tax disputes after HMRC has made a decision

Indirect taxes include:

  • VAT
  • Excise Duty
  • Customs Duty

You can apply for ADR when HMRC has made a decision about an indirect tax issue and you have either:

  • accepted our offer of a review - you must wait for the review to end, appeal to the tribunal and have the appeal accepted before applying
  • not accepted our offer of a review - you must appeal to the tribunal first, and have the appeal accepted before applying

How to apply

Use the online form to ask for ADR.

If you have an agent or tax adviser, they can apply for you.

If you’re a large business and have a HMRC Customer Compliance Manager or a dedicated caseworker, contact them first to discuss ADR.

What happens next

The ADR team will let you know within 30 days of receiving your application if ADR is right for resolving your dispute.

If your dispute is accepted you’ll be asked to fill in an agreement known as a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’. This sets out the ADR process and confirms you agree to take part.

If the terms of the memorandum are broken at any time HMRC can remove your dispute from the ADR process.

If your ADR application is rejected

All ADR applications that are recommended for rejection must follow strict governance procedures. Any decision to reject an application must be agreed by a panel made up of independent tax professionals.

We’ll tell you if we decide your case is not suitable for ADR.

If your dispute cannot be resolved using ADR

If you’re unable to reach an agreement at the end of the ADR process your HMRC mediator will tell you what you can do next.

Published 8 December 2014
Last updated 17 January 2019 + show all updates
  1. Types of cases that can be accepted for Alternative Dispute Resolution has been updated.
  2. Contact details added to the How to ask for ADR section.
  3. First published.