HMRC gets tougher on complaints about conduct

LONDON Wed May 1, 2013 11:05am BST

The name is engraved into the stone on the entrance to the HM Revenue & Customs building in Whitehall, central London December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett BRITAIN

The name is engraved into the stone on the entrance to the HM Revenue & Customs building in Whitehall, central London December 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett BRITAIN

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's tax authority has hardened its response to complaints about its conduct from disgruntled taxpayers, rejecting more and upholding fewer, records seen by Reuters show.

Records obtained by accountants Saffery Champness under the Freedom of Information Act show that Her Majesty's Revenues and Customs (HMRC) fully upheld 30 percent of the 75,568 complaints processed between 2011 and 2012, down from around 39 percent in previous years.

The proportion of complaints rejected climbed to more than 55 percent, from 47 percent the previous year and the highest rate since the department introduced its current complaints recording system in 2007.

"HMRC is getting nastier," Saffery Champness Partner Ronnie Ludwig said.

"Whether this changing attitude is down to renewed energy in stamping out any form of tax planning or an attempt to boost Treasury coffers ... is yet to be seen but the numbers speak for themselves," he said.

British authorities have come under increasing pressure to shut down tax loopholes exploited by rich individuals and corporations seeking to reduce their tax bills amid rising public anger.

However, a spokesman for HMRC said the department has not changed its approach to complaints.

"HMRC serves millions of taxpayers every year and a fraction of a per cent of those customers find it necessary to complain. We successfully collected over 469 billion pounds in revenues last year, dealing with 60 million phone calls and 30 million items of post. Our approach has not changed," the spokesman said.

(Reporting by Chris Vellacott, editing by Sinead Cruise)

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