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
Further information on how the
Adjudicator’s Office work is below.
The role of the Adjudicator
How the Adjudicator handles
The role of the
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
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
- 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
But she cannot look at:
Matters of government or departmental
- 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
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How the Adjudicator
Stage 1: Assistance
We first assess your complaint to see if
it is ready for our office. This
assessment is carried out by our
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
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
If, however, you remain dissatisfied
after the department has considered your
complaint fully, you can ask us to
Stage 2: InvestigationIf your complaint has already been
through the department’s procedures and
is about a matter that we can
investigate, then we will begin an
First, we ask each department to provide
a report into their handling of the
complaint and the reasons for their
Then, we review the complainant’s letter
and all the relevant evidence alongside
the department’s papers, guidelines and
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
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
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
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
See the Parliamentary Ombudsman website
www.ombudsman.org.uk for more
information. Link opens in a new window.