This section deals with complaints about operational issues (such as delays in the processing of repayment claims) or the conduct of officers - maladministration.
Where a complaint is made about a policy issue (registration, valuation, liability etc) you should use the guidance to explain the law and our policy. In cases not covered by the guidance, or where there is persistent criticism, you should contact the Financial Services Team (see IPT08100).
Neither the Adjudicator nor the Ombudsman will usually consider cases where there are other legal remedies open to the complainant, such as the VAT Tribunals or the Courts.
The factsheet on Complaints and putting things right deals generally with complaints against HMRC.
Complaints handling procedures vary between business units. Any complaints should be dealt with in accordance with local procedures for recording, monitoring and responding to complaints. In addition, further guidance can be found on the intranet at Complaints Handling Guidance.
The Adjudicator is an appointee independent of the Department whose role is to adjudicate on complaints against HMRC and the Contributions Agency. These services are free. Members of the public or businesses can write to (or telephone) the office of the Adjudicator directly. The Adjudicator looks at complaints about problems which have arisen since 1 April 1995, and deals with cases which involve the way we have dealt with people or businesses. The Adjudicator deals, for example, with:
- excessive delay,
- the exercise of our discretion - about time to pay and similar issues, and
- the conduct of searches.
The Adjudicator will usually only consider a case when Departmental complaints procedures have first been used. The Adjudicator issues a leaflet about complaints against HMRC - that makes the point that potential complaints should be referred to HMRC first, to give us a chance to settle the complaint directly. The Adjudicator will not look at cases which have already been referred to, or looked at by, the Ombudsman, or cases which are before the courts.
The Adjudicator has the right of access to all official papers. Despite this, the Adjudicator’s methods tend to be relatively informal compared with those of the Ombudsman.
The Adjudicator’s Office will refer any complaints they receive directly to the Executive Unit Adjudication Liaison Officer. The Adjudicator will want to know within 48 hours if the case has already been considered, or if you have not yet had the opportunity to respond. If the complaint has not previously been considered you should try to resolve it locally. If you have already responded to the complaint, then a full report, including all original supporting documents, should be forwarded to the Adjudicator’s Office within two weeks.
The Adjudicator may, if satisfied that a complaint is justified, suggest compensation to be paid to the complainant. If a complainant is dissatisfied with the Adjudicator’s decision they may ask their MP to raise their case with the Ombudsman.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the “PCA”, more commonly known as “the Ombudsman”) is an officer of Parliament. As a general rule only the most serious complaints reach the PCA, as members of the public or businesses cannot approach the PCA directly. Cases of serious maladministration are referred to the PCA by Members of Parliament, to whom a complainant must go if their case is to be raised.
The PCA has the right of access to all official papers. The PCA may, if satisfied that a complaint is justified, suggest compensation to be paid to the complainant.
If you are contacted by the office of the PCA, you should be helpful and give straightforward factual answers to questions. You should report the contact with the office of the PCA to your line manager and Grade 7.