Belfast Telegraph

HMRC complaints hit highest level since 2008/09

Complaints against HM Revenue and Customs are at their highest level since the financial crisis, according to new figures.

The tax authority handled 81,066 complaints during 2015/16 - up more than 7,000 on the previous year and the most for any year since 2008/09.

More than a third (34%) of the complaints - 27,522 - were fully upheld and 17% - 13,691 - partially, a total of over half of the cases completed over the course of the year.

The 51% proportion of complaints partially or fully upheld was up sharply on 46% in 2014/15, 45% in 2013/14 and 37% in 2012/13.

The figures were obtained by a Freedom of Information request to HMRC by accountants Saffery Champness.

Partner James Hender said: "This data reinforces the anecdotal impression that many of us in the industry have been receiving. HMRC is making a large number of errors each year and has bitten off more than it can chew.

"Our clients are acutely aware that HMRC can have a poor response time and that it does not have sufficient resources to enable it to deal effectively with the more complex investigations. The suspicion will be that frontline staff are being dragged away from their day jobs to deal with the ever growing mountain of complaints received."

Another partner at the firm, Lucy Brennan, said that more taxpayers are "inevitably coming up against obstacles" as HMRC takes the tax system online through its Making Tax Digital (MTD) project, launched last December.

But an HMRC spokesman said that MTD was not yet live, and the new figures relate to a period before its introduction.

The spokesman said: "We apologise to the customers that we have let down. We take complaints very seriously, we want people to tell us when we make mistakes or our service falls short so we can improve our systems and services."