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HMRC internal manual

Complaint Handling Guidance

Complaints to the Parliamentary Ombudsman: Interaction with the Ombudsman's Office

When the Ombudsman receives a complaint from a Member of Parliament, staff in the Ombudsman’s Office decide whether they need any additional information or papers from either the complainant or the department to make a decision on the case. If they do approach us they will probably request a report, sight of the papers or both in order to prepare a response. For more help with preparing reports for the Ombudsman, see CHG1300.

Once they have your report, the Ombudsman’s Office caseworker may find it helpful to discuss certain aspects of the case with you. Be prepared to help the Ombudsman’s Office with their review. Do not automatically assume that, by asking difficult or probing questions, the Ombudsman’s Office are implying that we should have taken a different decision. More often than not, they will merely be seeking fully to understand the rationale behind our decisions, so as to assess why they were made and the extent to which they were reasonable in all the prevailing circumstances. We should have asked ourselves similar questions in the course of our own investigations.

Although we are under no legal requirement to do so, HMRC expects to accept and implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations. Where the Ombudsman encounters a refusal to implement her recommendations, she has the power to lay a report before Parliament. In no circumstances, therefore, should you refuse to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations. Any such decision would be taken only following consultation with CCAST and CPST.

If you receive a letter about a complaint under investigation by the Ombudsman:

  • tell your business unit director’s team, or equivalent if appropriate
  • send a copy of the letter to the Ombudsman’s Office
  • tell the customer what action you have taken.

If you receive a complaint about the way the Ombudsman has investigated a complaint or the Ombudsman’s recommendations, explain that:

  • as the Ombudsman is independent of HMRC it would be inappropriate to comment on their actions and that you will forward a copy of the complaint to the Ombudsman’s office
  • any further correspondence as to the Ombudsman’s investigation must be addressed to the Ombudsman’s Office.

CPST are the central policy liaison point for the Ombudsman’s Office. CCAST provide detailed help and advice on individual cases being investigated by the Ombudsman.