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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
, see all updates

Communications: Personal applicants: potential areas of difficulty

People often complain when

  • they don’t understand what is going on or
  • they feel they have no input into what is being decided

They may get angry because

  • they are under pressure from beneficiaries or
  • they don’t agree with the tax itself or the way we have handled something.

If you have to speak to an angry or upset customer you need to

  • keep calm
  • be tactful and polite
  • deal with each point, one at a time, when faced with a list of grievances
  • explain why you are taking a particular action

If you find yourself in a difficult situation during a conversation you may wish to consider following ways of diffusing the situation

  • Say you are sorry they feel unhappy, and that you will listen to them and try to answer any questions they have
  • explain that our role is to deal with Inheritance Tax, according to the current laws, and that we treat all taxpayers equally.
  • offer to explain a difficult point in writing, if they think this will help
  • offer to discuss the matter further on the telephone once they have had a chance to read a letter that you are sending
  • if what they are saying is very confused, suggest that they put things in writing. If appropriate, you might say that this would enable you to refer the problem for advice
  • offer to get someone more senior to phone them back

Remember that if a customer is rude or abusive you should stay calm and never be tempted to be rude yourself. If he or she does not calm down quickly you should say you will terminate the call and then do so.