The Adjudicator’s annual report highlights that HMRC’s complaints handling performance has not fully recovered post pandemic. A large number of complaints are raised prematurely by those who have been unable to successfully navigate HMRC’s internal complaints system.

The Adjudicator’s Office Annual Report 2023 is the seventh and final report by Helen Magarry, who left at the end of March 2023.  

The Adjudicator reports that HMRC’s complaints performance has still not fully recovered from post-pandemic disruption. There has been recovery in some areas, but there are significant backlogs in others that are not expected to be cleared until well into 2023/24.  

During the reporting year, the Adjudicator received 950 complaints about HMRC for investigation. This is compared to 1,029 in the previous year. The upheld rate (including full and partial) increased to 47%, up 15%. Casework has almost entirely transitioned back to non-COVID complaints. 

The Adjudicator continues to receive high numbers of premature complaints from taxpayers who have not managed to complete HMRC’s internal complaints process. Increasing numbers of, often vulnerable, taxpayers are stuck in the system for long periods with little or no meaningful response from HMRC.  

The Adjudicator acknowledges the context of pressure on HMRC’s operational resources. 

In her reflections on her seven years, the Adjudicator recognises that HMRC has acted on most of her substantive recommendations to improve the governance of complaints. This includes:  

  • providing explicit senior sponsorship and accountability for complaints; 
  • adopting common complaint-handling standards to apply across HMRC’s activities; 
  • adopting a complaint strategy to embrace transformational learning; and
  • putting in place structures to enable cross-departmental action on complaint learning.  

HMRC endorsed the proposal to use insight from complaints to hold itself to account for its progress in embedding their Charter. Despite this progress, the Adjudicator still sees inconsistency in how different parts of HMRC approach complaints and the Charter itself. If anything, she is beginning to see more divergence in both practice and engagement. The report points to good practice in the Customer Compliance Group and less progress in the Customer Services Group. The Adjudicator  sees little evidence of what is being done to overcome cultural barriers and the different levels of priority being given by senior leaders. 

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