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HMRC internal manual

Complaint Handling Guidance

Dealing with complaints: Complaints about misconduct (including serious misconduct and criminality)

Allegations from customers concerning the conduct of HMRC staff are to be handled as complaints.  However, there is detailed HR guidance on the disciplinary process. 


The role of the complaints team


Conduct complaints can be a mixture of conduct allegations and maladministration or delay in the handling of the customer’s tax affairs.  Conduct complaints often involve joint working.

  • Any maladministration/delay elements of a conduct complaint are handled by the complaints team in the normal way.  The complaints team will liaise with others regarding the conduct allegations.
  • A Minor or Serious conduct allegation is investigated by the management chain.  The management chain will tell the complaints team of the outcome of their review and the complaints team will issue the reply to the customer. 
  • Allegations which could be Gross misconduct will involve Internal Governance (IG).  The manager or complaints team (depending on who receives the complaint) will refer the case to IG immediately.  IG will advise whether they will investigate the conduct complaint or if it should be reviewed by the management chain.  The non-conduct elements of the complaint will be reviewed by the complaints team as normal.  IG will notify the complaints team of the outcome of the review and how to frame the reply to the customer about the conduct elements.
  • Some allegations will be sufficiently serious to warrant referral to other regulatory bodies [Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for England & Wales; Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Scotland (COPFS) for Scotland]. IG will deal with the conduct element in these cases and will ensure that the complaint is acknowledged and the customer kept informed by the appropriate dates.  The IG and complaints team responses could have different escalation routes if the customer is dissatisfied with our replies, e.g. the conduct allegation could be escalated to the IPCC but the handling of the customer’s tax affairs could escalate to the Adjudicator.


Handling the Complaint

Conduct complaints are recorded on ECCS as HMRC’s record of all complaints received from customers.  Do not scan a complaint letter which includes an allegation of gross misconduct. 


  1. The following information should be recorded on ECCS
  • Name and address of the complainant
  • Date the complaint was received
  • Date recorded
  • Details of the allegations made against the Officer
  • Whether the case has been referred to IG or the management chain and the date sent
  • If a call recording exists.


Other information should be kept on a separate electronic file (e.g. in a secure CAF) to monitor reoccurring complaints. Information such as:

  • The name of the officer being complained about
  • Their manager’s name and location
  • The name of the officer who received the complaint


  1. Check the HR guidance to assess whether the allegation falls within minor, serious or gross misconduct.

  2. Refer the conduct allegation to the line manager, line manager’s manager or Internal Governance as guided by the guidance at 2. above.

  3. Review any maladministration/delay complaint as normal.

  4. Liaise with the management chain/Internal Governance over lines to include in your letter regarding the conduct allegation.

  5. Reply to the customer.