HMRC complaints reach highest level since financial crisis

Complaints to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have hit their highest level since the peak of the global financial crisis, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In 2015/16, the Revenue handled 81,066 complaints, an increase of more than 16,000 on 2013-14. The last time complaints were higher was during the 2008-09 financial crisis (83,917).

There was also an increase in the number of complaints upheld, with over half of complaints partially and fully upheld last year. This could be due to improved systems and processes assisting in identifying errors, or as a result of HMRC looking to find swift resolutions to complaints due to staff being overstretched.

Despite an effort to deliver “one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world” through the new digital tax filing system, HMRC has faced repeated criticism in the past year.

In May the National Audit Office (NAO) indicated that millions may be owed money by HMRC due to phone blunders caused by staff shortages, with the Treasury reportedly benefitting from “accidental overpayments” via the new digital tax filing system. June NAO estimates showed that this could be costing small businesses around £97m a year.

In July an official report said HMRC risked losing the confidence of businesses and individuals after it overestimated the number of staff reductions made possible by the new digital systems, leaving them unable to meet the demand for telephone contact.

And in September a separate survey showed that 96 per cent of SMEs are wasting valuable time waiting to speak to the Revenue.

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