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What you need to know
Before we look at your complaint you will need to have exhausted the organisation's own complaints procedure and have received a final response from them. Find out more about the complaint process.
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HM Revenue & Customs
Valuation Office Agency
Insolvency Service
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How we work

The Adjudicator acts as a fair and unbiased referee looking into complaints about HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and The Insolvency Service.

Further information on how the Adjudicator’s Office work is below.

The role of the Adjudicator

How the Adjudicator handles complaints

The role of the Adjudicator

The Adjudicator’s role is to consider whether or not the department (HMRC, the VOA or The Insolvency Service) have handled your complaint appropriately and have given a reasonable decision.

Where the Adjudicator thinks they have fallen short, she will recommend what they need to do to put matters right.

This may include making suggestions for service improvements where she thinks this could be of benefit to the wider public.

The Adjudicator can look at complaints about:
  • Mistakes (e.g. if information has been used incorrectly or overlooked).
  • Unreasonable delays (e.g. where matters haven't been dealt with promptly).
  • Poor or misleading advice (e.g. inaccurate information has been given).
  • Inappropriate staff behaviour (e.g. rude responses or refusing to listen).
  • The use of discretion (e.g. not taking account of exceptional circumstances).

But she cannot look at:
  • Matters of government or departmental policy.
  • Complaints where there is a specific right of determination by any court, tribunal, or other body with specific jurisdiction over the matter.
  • Valuation decisions of Statutory Officers in the VOA.
  • Complaints about whether HMRC, VOA, or The Insolvency Service have complied with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 1998.
  • Complaints about an ongoing investigation or enquiry.
  • Decisions, or omissions by an Official Receiver, or an Insolvency Practitioner when acting as trustee or liquidator.
  • Matters concerning the professional conduct of an Insolvency Practitioner not licensed by the Secretary of State.
  • Complaints that have been or are being investigated by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

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How the Adjudicator handles complaints

Stage 1: Assistance

We first assess your complaint to see if it is ready for our office. This assessment is carried out by our Assistance Team.

The Assistance Team will check that the department has had a proper opportunity to consider your complaint, then decide if your complaint is something that the Adjudictor’s Office can help with.

We cannot consider your complaint until it has gone through the department’s own complaints procedure. We expect you to bring your complaint to us within six months of your final reply from the organisation.

Many initial contacts are referred back to the departments because they have not exhausted their internal complaints process. We call these Assistance Cases.

If the organisation has not had the opportunity to deal with your complaint fully, we will ask them to do so. We will tell you what we have done, and say which office will be replying to you.

Many complaints are resolved successfully at this stage by the departments without further need for our involvement.

If, however, you remain dissatisfied after the department has considered your complaint fully, you can ask us to investigate.

Stage 2: Investigation

If your complaint has already been through the department’s procedures and is about a matter that we can investigate, then we will begin an investigation.

First, we ask each department to provide a report into their handling of the complaint and the reasons for their decisions.

Then, we review the complainant’s letter and all the relevant evidence alongside the department’s papers, guidelines and procedures.

During our investigation of your complaint, we may find that we need to obtain further information or evidence from you before the Adjudicator can reach her decision.

In these circumstances, a meeting can sometimes be the simplest and most effective way to take things forward. If we think a meeting with you (or your representative) would be useful, we will write to you about arranging a meeting.

Stage 3: Resolution

Once we have gathered and reviewed all the necessary information, we will try to bring your complaint to a resolution.

Resolution by mediation

Mediation is the process whereby both parties reach an agreement on how a case may be settled. Our investigator will review the complaint and if there is scope to propose a mediated settlement they will work with the complainant and the department to achieve this on behalf of the Adjudicator.

Resolution by recommendation

Where mediation is inappropriate, the investigated case will be presented to the Adjudicator. The Adjudicator will review the case in detail. She will write to you and to the department outlining her views and any recommendations.

We call these letters ‘recommendation letters’ because they set out what, if anything, the Adjudicator ‘recommends’ the department should do to put things right. If the Adjudicator believes that the organisation has already dealt with the complaint adequately, she will say so.

However we resolve the complaint, it must be consistent with the organisation’s own instructions and Codes of Practice. This could include asking the organisation to apologise and to meet any additional costs that you have incurred as a direct result of their mistakes or delays – things like postage, telephone calls or the cost of professional advice. Or we might ask the organisation to make a small payment to recognise any worry and distress that you have suffered.

To date, the departments we investigate have accepted all of the Adjudicator’s recommendations.

How likely is it that the Adjudicator will uphold my complaint?

The Adjudicator considers every complaint on its own merits, so it is not possible to predict an outcome beforehand. However, it is possible to describe some situations where the Adjudicator may not uphold a complaint:

  • Where you have already received an adequate remedy from the organisation for their shortcomings.
  • Where it seems the organisation has applied its rules and procedures correctly. The Adjudicator cannot ask the organisation to modify its rules and procedures, no matter how sympathetic she is to your situation.
  • Where there is insufficient evidence to enable the Adjudicator to reach a safe conclusion on disputed areas.

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The Parliamentary Ombudsman

If you remain unhappy once this process has concluded, you can ask an MP to put your complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

See the Parliamentary Ombudsman website for more information. Link opens in a new window.
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