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HMRC internal manual

Complaint Handling Guidance

Complaints: an overview: Our complaints process

Business Units (many of which have dedicated complaints teams) are responsible for dealing with complaints using a formal two-tier process. Tier 1 is our first attempt to resolve the complaint, and we aim to resolve as many complaints as possible at this stage. When we reply to complaints following a tier 1 review, it is important to tell customers that, if they remain dissatisfied, they can ask us to look at the complaint again. This second stage is the tier 2 review, and our factsheet on complaints tells customers that this will be carried out by a different person. This ensures a “fresh pair of eyes” approach. When we reply to complaints following a tier 2 review we tell customers that this is the end of HMRC’s complaints process but must explain that, if they remain dissatisfied, they can ask the Adjudicator to look at the complaint.

It is often a judgement call as to when to escalate a complaint from tier 1 to tier 2. For example, if it appears that the customer has simply misinterpreted a point made in the tier 1 response, and that clarification may help to resolve the matter, then it is more appropriate to keep the correspondence within tier 1 and seek to provide a clearer explanation of the point in question, rather than escalate to tier 2. Similarly, if a customer presents further information that could cause tier 1 to take a different view of matters, then it may be more appropriate not to escalate to tier 2 at that stage. If, on the other hand, the customer makes it clear that it is the substance of the response itself that is the issue, rather than the clarity of explanation or the fact that there is fresh evidence to present, then it will probably be appropriate to escalate to tier 2.

In general, the customer’s wishes will drive your decision on escalation, although it will sometimes be necessary to balance the customer’s wishes against the need to bring matters to a conclusion; for example, there is little to be gained by putting off escalation when the customer is unable to present any fresh evidence to alter your view of the complaint. This applies not only when considering escalation from tier 1 to tier 2, but also in directing customers to the Adjudicator’s Office.