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Tax complaints needing over a year to be resolved

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It is taking 13 months on average for tax disputes to be sorted out, new figures indicate.

Taxpayers who bring a complaint to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are having to wait 56 weeks until their case is adjudicated.

One reason for the level of delay has been the significant rise in the numbers of people lodging enquiries into the tax credits they have been awarded.

The increase in complaints has been further compounded by staff shortages at HMRC which have lengthened the time required to sift through the backlog of claims.

Those involved in more complicated tax disputes, often the self-employed, are not seeing their cases dealt with for up to 18 months.

The figures come from the adjudicator’s office, tasked with processing complaints lodged against HMRC.

Disputes in the year to March were averaging at 50 weeks before an outcome was reached.

However, last week staff conceded that the average period for resolving issues and for offering a judgement has now risen to 56 weeks.

In contrast, the Financial Ombudsman Service, which handled 1.48 million complaints in 2008, has been finalising assessments within an average of 6 months.

The Treasury Minister, Stephen Timms recently launched a taxpayers’ charter which sets out how HMRC is expected treat taxpayers. This includes providing clear explanations of the rules, making every effort to correct mistakes as quickly as possible and detailing right to appeal against an assessment.

The charter, which was legislated for in this year’s Finance Act, also explains that taxpayers can expect HMRC to help them to get things right; to treat them as honest; to treat them even-handedly; to be professional and act with integrity; to tackle people who deliberately break the rules and challenge those who bend the rules; and to protect taxpayers’ information and to respect their privacy.

A spokesman for HMRC said: “There is an active plan to tackle the backlog of cases. We added 10 investigators at a centre in Derby last year, which increased the numbers by 25 per cent.”

A full version of the charter is available at: