Citizens are to be given a digital method to take complaints about HM Revenue and Customs to the government’s independent arbiter.
The Adjudicator’s Office offers external review if citizens are not happy with the handling of complaints made about HMRC or the Valuation Office Agency. Currently, the only means of contacting the office are via phone, post, or fax.
This month Nicky Morgan, the chair of the Commons Treasury Committee, wrote to HMRC to “express the committee’s astonishment that the public are unable to contact the AO by email”.
The department’s deputy chief executive and second permanent secretary Jim Harra has now responded – and confirmed that HMRC will offer citizens a digital method of escalating their complaints.
“HMRC agrees that a channel should be found to allow members of the public to contact the Adjudicator’s Office by email or through another form of secure digital channel,” he said. “Following prioritisation over the last year of EU exit preparations, and now that Office 365 has been fully rolled out within HMRC, this change is now in the IT programme for the current financial year. Work is underway to scope the requirements. Our aim is to deliver the change by the autumn, and potentially sooner if that proves feasible.”
Morgan welcomed the news.
“The AO plays a valuable role in resolving complaints against HMRC, yet many people are unaware of its existence. And of those people who are aware, it can be a struggle for them to get in touch with the AO,” she said. “As the Adjudicator told the committee, the lack of digital access to the AO’s service is not defendable.
“Public-facing services simply have to be digitally accessible these days. Whilst it is astonishing in this day and age to say this, HMRC’s long-overdue commitment to provide a digital channel for the public to contact the AO is welcome.”