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HMRC internal manual

Shares and Assets Valuation Manual

Correspondence and Customer Service: Handling of Complaints

If a mistake has been made, or a published target has not been achieved, you should admit it and apologise.

  • you should show that you understand what has caused them to complain. A simple way to do this is to restate the person’s complaint in your own words.
  • You may explain how the circumstances giving rise to the complaint arose, but do not be defensive. For example, pressure of work is not a satisfactory explanation to a complainant and you should not use it.
  • If something has gone wrong, explain how the matter is going to be put right, and, if appropriate, what we will do to try and prevent similar circumstances arising again.
  • We should see complaints as an opportunity for learning. We might learn about what we should do to improve our service, or that we need to improve our communication with other organisations on whom we depend, or that we need to educate our customers about our requirements and standards of service.

Detailed general guidance on dealing with complaints is given in the Complaint Handling Guidance and the Complaints and Remedy Guidance, both available on the HMRC Internet site and the Intranet - but here are a few dos and don’ts when dealing with a complaint.


  • Obtain full details of the complaint - listen carefully - allow them to ‘let off steam’ - clarify where necessary
  • Explain what has gone wrong and why
  • Ask your manager for help, if necessary
  • Apologise, if appropriate, and show concern - make sure your language is positive
  • Put things right as quickly as possibly and explain what you are going to do. If this cannot be done straightaway, promise follow up action and make sure you carry out whatever you have promised to do
  • Put yourself in the customer’s shoes - acknowledge their concerns
  • Stay calm, especially if they are upset, rude or abusive
  • Treat the customer with respect and be sensitive to their needs
  • Be fair and open minded
  • Keep notes of any telephone calls
  • Learn from the mistake to avoid the same thing happening again


  • Take the complaint personally - the customer is usually upset with the Department rather than you as an individual
  • Blame colleagues or the Department - pressure of work is not a satisfactory explanation and you should not use it
  • Be pressured into doing or saying something you should not
  • Enter into an argument or react if customer is rude or abusive
  Additional Guidance: SVM150000