As a hard-pressed UK taxpayer, you may feel that you have no rights at all. After all, there is certain information you are obliged to disclose to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), regardless of whether you wish to or not. However, as with all systems regulated by the government, you do have certain rights, so it makes sense to know what they are and how they are appropriate to your situation.
Your rights as a UK taxpayer are set out in a Charter which lists your rights, as well as your responsibilities to HMRC. These rights appear to be fairly straightforward and self-evident, and they are not presented in incomprehensible jargon, so they are easy to understand, even for the lay person.
The right of respect
HMRC promises to respect you and treat you with courtesy, understanding your concerns and also explaining things in a way you can understand. Part of this right is explaining how to appeal against a decision you disagree with.
The right of support
You are entitled to information that explains the steps you need to take to satisfy HMRC’s queries and the timescale for providing information. HMRC are also obliged to provide you with details of all the taxes they deal with, as well as all allowances you may be able to claim against your tax liability. Information must be processed quickly, and mistakes rectified as soon as possible.
The right to be treated fairly
As in the criminal justice system, the taxpayer has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. You should not be subjected to an interrogation regarding your tax affairs unless you give HMRC just cause for suspicion. They must also tell you why your circumstances are being checked, and why they need to ask particular questions.
HMRC must ensure fair treatment to taxpayers by acting within the law, explaining your legal rights and how you can appeal against decisions you disagree with or complain about your treatment. Any financial difficulties you may be experiencing must also be taken into consideration and allowed for.
The cost of your interaction with HMRC – in terms of both time and money – should be kept as low as possible. It must be cheap and easy to contact them, and services and requirements should be fully explained.
The right to professional treatment
HMRC will ensure that the people who work with you are those most qualified to deal with your particular case. They will also keep you informed of progress and make decisions based on the law and professional guidelines. As part of your right to professional treatment, you can expect HMRC to pursue people who are deliberately trying to avoid their tax obligations, particularly if that avoidance has personal implications for you.
The right to privacy
Any information you provide to HMRC will only be released to other agencies or individuals if there is a legal requirement to do so – for example in the case of a criminal investigation. Staff will only be supplied with personal information if they need it to deal with your case, and HMRC must disclose the information they hold about you if you request it.
The right to representation
You are entitled to appoint a professional representative to deal with HMRC on your behalf. In order to protect your privacy, you must provide authorisation to HMRC before they will deal with a third party.
In the interests of administering the UK tax system fairly and efficiently, HMRC is making concerted efforts to deal openly and honestly with members of the public. If you suspect that this is not the case in your experience, there is a designated complaints procedure available.