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The Adjudicator's Office 2008 Annual Report is published today
Dame Barbara Mills, the Adjudicator for complaints about HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Valuation Office Agency, the Office of the Public Guardian and The Insolvency Service, publishes her 2007/08 Annual Report today. The report, which covers Dame Barbara's ninth year as Adjudicator, is the fifteenth to be published since the office was created in May 1993.
Dame Barbara notes that the past year has been difficult both for HMRC and her office, which continued to receive a high number of tax credits complaints. She welcomes, however, the recent changes in how HMRC decides whether to write off an overpayment of tax credits that arose from an HMRC mistake. Instead of basing this decision on what the claimant could reasonably believed to have been the position at the time of the overpayment, the criteria now used is whether both the claimant and HMRC have met their obligations. Dame Barbara writes "I think this is a substantial improvement. The Tax Credit Office (TCO) have to make a great many of these decisions. The new rules should make it easier for them to arrive at decisions that are fair and consistent for large numbers of claimants over widely differing ranges of circumstances."
Dame Barbara also welcomes HMRC's agreement to increase her office's resources to deal with a large and growing number of complaints on hand. She writes "HMRC agreed to this increase in our complement against the backdrop of both a very tight funding position for 2008/09, and an ongoing commitment to reduce jobs and produce savings. I take this as a welcome sign of HMRC's commitment to good complaints handling and ensuring that its customers who receive poor service are treated properly and fairly."
While welcoming the fall this year in the percentage of tax credits complaints upheld from 56% to 48% she goes on to say "This still, however, falls some way short of the 25% achieved for non-tax credits HMRC complaints. So it is important the commitment HMRC has shown to us is also reflected in a wider commitment to continuing to improve its complaints handling for tax credits generally."
Notes for editors
1. The Adjudicator's Office was set up in 1993, to look into complaints about the Inland Revenue (including the Valuation Agency). In 1995 the office's remit was extended to cover complaints about Customs and Excise and the Contributions Agency. In April 2001 the office took on complaints about the Public Guardianship Office and from April 2003 the office has taken on complaints about The Insolvency Service.
2. Dame Barbara Mills has been Adjudicator since April 1999. She acts as an impartial referee when people are not satisfied with the way the organisations have dealt with their complaint. She looks at complaints about handling issues, such as mistakes, delay, staff attitude, and quality of advice. She does not consider complaints about the law, or where an independent tribunal already exists for settling disagreements. Neither does she look at complaints that have been, or are being, considered by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. Her recommendations are independent and her services are free to complainants.
3. This report covers the period 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008 and is available free of charge from the Adjudicator's Office, 8th Floor Euston Tower, 286 Euston Road, London NW1 3US. Telephone 0300 057 1111 or 020 7667 1817. It is also available on http://www.adjudicatorsoffice.gov.uk
4. Further information about the office (including leaflets on how to complain) can also be obtained from the above address or website.
5. Statistics for the year to 31 March 2008 are attached in the following tables.
HM Valuation Office of The Total Revenue Office Agency the Public Insolvency & Guardian Service Customs Complaints 1,978 16 15 8 2,017 taken on for investigation Investigation 1,690 11 11 8 1,720 cases completed Number upheld 747 5 3 2 757
Note: The Public Guardianship Office (PGO) became the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) in October 2007. We did not take on for investigation any complaints about the OPG in 2007/08 but we did take on 15 complaints about the PGO.
In 2007/08, the Adjudicator recommended HMRC pay a total of £142,307 compensation to complainants. She also recommended that HMRC give tax and interest amounting to £40,642 and that HMRC write off £673,469 in overpaid tax credits.
The Adjudicator recommended that the VOA pay £110 compensation to complainants and that the PGO pay £850. She did not recommend that The Insolvency Service pay any compensation to complainants.