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HMRC internal manual

Complaint Handling Guidance

Defining and recognising a complaint: Extra-statutory concessions and Codes of Practice, including ESC A19 and CoP26

ESC A19 (giving up tax underpaid) and CoP26 (giving up tax credits overpaid) are two of the most widely used of HMRC’s ESCs and CoPs. Usually when customers first ask us to consider the application of these discretionary instruments, it is not in the form of a complaint. Rather, it is a request for us to consider whether the provisions of the relevant instrument apply in the customer’s specific circumstances. Consideration of such requests is usually (but not always) undertaken in the business, ie outside the complaints team. And sometimes, procedures allow for an initial refusal to be looked at again by a different person.

It is only at the point when the customer objects to the reviewer’s decision (where a review stage exists) that the issue then becomes a complaint. See PAYE95090 (external users can find the guidance at as an example of how this works with ESC A19.

Business Units should avoid introducing too many layers for the customer to pass through before the objection or dispute is recorded and dealt with as a complaint. Our procedures should not seek to exhaust the customer. And remember, every additional layer amounts to additional cost for HMRC.