Revenue to have complaint fielder

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The Independent Online
THE Inland Revenue is to get its own ombudsman, the Revenue Adjudicator.

He or she will not have any legal powers to enforce decisions, but will make recommendations after examining complaints from the public.

A spokeswoman for the Inland Revenue said that consideration would be given to balancing the needs of the individual and the danger of setting precedents when deciding whether to abide by the adjudicator's decision. 'But we don't perceive very many circumstances in which this will happen,' she added.

In the year ending September 1992, the Revenue received 14,000 complaints, and paid out pounds 350,000 in compensation, with an average payment of pounds 400. Nearly half the cases involved taxpayers on PAYE, whose main causes of complaint were technical procedural points and delays. One case in 20 related to a tax investigation.

Taxpayers can complain to the regional or district levels of the Inland Revenue, or can ask their MP to approach the Parliamentary Ombudsman. After May, they will be able to go direct to the adjudicator. 'We hope people will go through the chain first,' a Revenue spokeswoman said.

Only events after 5 April will be considered by the adjudicator. They must relate to the manner in which the Revenue handled someone's tax affairs, or the way that discretionary powers were used. Matters subject to existing rights of appeal, such as points of law or tax liability, will continue to be handled by the Special or General Commissioners.

According to Sir Anthony Battishill, the chairman of the board of the Inland Revenue: 'The new arrangement will provide taxpayers with the assurance of an impartial review, and Inland Revenue staff with greater protection against complaints that prove to be unfair.'

In another development stemming from the Government's Citizen's Charter, three new codes of practice have been launched to draw together existing guidance for Inland Revenue staff, with more planned. The first three, which cover compensation, investigations and PAYE audits, will be available from local tax offices from the end of the month.

On compensation, for example, the Inland Revenue says it aims to deal with inquiries within 28 days. Where that target is exceeded by more than six months, it will waive interest on tax unpaid during the delay, or pay interest on money owed, plus any reasonable costs incurred through the delay.

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