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Help with tax problems

Where to get help with a tax problem

Many people find tax matters confusing, but there are ways of getting help. We have listed some of the most common ways of getting help below.

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Your employer

If you have a tax problem and you are an employee, you may be able to get help about a tax code or PAYE from your employer.

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Useful websites

There are a number of websites that provide useful information about tax:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is the government department responsible for tax. Go to www.hmrc.gov.uk
  • The GOV.UK website also has tax information for individuals at www.gov.uk and for businesses at www.gov.uk
  • TaxAid has useful information on how to resolve tax problems at www.taxaid.org.uk
  • Tax Help for Older People (TOP) can help pensioners on a low income who are aged over 60. Go to www.taxvol.org.uk
  • The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group website has useful information for people on a low income at www.litrg.org.uk.

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Contacting HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

If the problem cannot be sorted out by talking to your employer, or looking on a website, the next step is to contact HMRC. Usually, you will need to do this by telephone.

You can contact HMRC on the Taxes Helpline for individuals and employees, including pensioners and people on benefits, on 0300 200 3300.

If you are newly self-employed, contact the Newly Self-Employed Helpline on 0300 200 3504.

If you need help with Self Assessment, contact the Self Assessment Helpline on 0300 200 3310.

For other HMRC helplines, see their website at http://search.hmrc.gov.uk.

When you contact HMRC, you must be ready to quote your national insurance number and your employer's tax reference number. If you don't know the tax reference number, your employer must give it to you if you ask for it. Or look on your payslip,P45 or P60.

In some cases, you can contact HMRC using an online form. This may be more convenient than using a helpline when the lines are frequently busy. However, you can only do this for certain topics. For example, you can use an online form to:-

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Going to an HMRC Enquiry Centre

If you need to speak to someone face-to-face, you may be able to visit an HMRC Enquiry Centre. However, HMRC is planning to close all its Enquiry Centres for personal callers by the end of June 2014.

Most Enquiry Centres are accessible for disabled people and can provide induction loops, magnifiers to help you read the forms and crystal listening devices to help you if you are hard of hearing. If you need a sign language interpreter, or other interpretation services, these can be arranged.

You can find out where your nearest Tax Enquiry Centre is on the HM Revenue and Customs website at: www.hmrc.gov.uk.

To make an appointment to see an adviser at a Tax Enquiry Centre, phone one of the HM Revenue and Customs helplines. Which helpline depends on what your enquiry is about. For a list of helplines, go to the HM Revenue and Customs website at: www.hmrc.gov.uk.

If your local Tax Enquiry Centre has closed

HMRC has closed down some of its local Tax Enquiry Centres in the North East of England. The centres which have closed are: Alnwick, Bishop Auckland, Bridlington, Hexham, Darlington, Durham, Middlesbrough, Morpeth, Newcastle, Scarborough, Stockton, Sunderland and York.

All Enquiry Centres are to close at the end of June 2014.

If your local office has closed and you need extra help, HMRC or your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to put you in touch with a specialist HMRC service. This service will generally help people over the phone, but if you do need to see somebody face-to-face, HMRC may be able to offer you a home visit or arrange to meet you somewhere else that's convenient to you.

If your local Tax Enquiry Centre has closed, you can:

  • contact your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau who can help sort out your problem or put you in touch with HMRC's specialist service if you need extra help
  • contact HMRC on 0300 200 3300 or go to their website at www.hmrc.gov.uk
  • If you have tried but can't get the problem resolved with HMRC, then you may qualify for help from a tax charity – TaxAid (www.taxaid.org.uk) or Tax Help for Older People (www.taxvol.org.uk ) who can give advice about tax if you're on a low income.

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Challenging a tax decision and negotiating with HM Revenue and Customs

If your problem has still not been sorted out, you may wish to challenge it, or negotiate, with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) The procedure to follow and the correct office depend on the type of challenge or dispute.

Some of the main procedures are:

  • appealing, for example, against a calculation of tax liability or a PAYE code A factsheet about appealing against a decision of HMRC is available on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk.
  • seeking a waiver, because of HMRC delays
  • negotiating tax debts. There is lots of useful information about dealing with tax debts on the Tax Aid website at: www.taxaid.org.uk
  • complaining about HMRC conduct. HMRC publishes a charter about what you can expect from them, and what they expect from you. You might find it helpful to look at the charter before you make a complaint. You can find the charter on the HMRC website at: www.hmrc.gov.uk.

When dealing with any query or negotiation, whether in writing, over the phone or in person, remember the following tips:

  • prepare in advance
  • make a note of the relevant facts
  • collect all available evidence
  • have a clear idea of what outcome you want
  • make a record of who you speak to and what is said
  • try to stay calm
  • say thank you if your contact was helpful and mention any helpful advice you get in any letters you write
  • be persistent
  • ask about any appeal process.

For more information about how to challenge or negotiate with HMRC, you should see an adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

If you are not satisfied by the outcome or your complaint or negotiation, you may want to take matters further by complaining to the Adjudicator or Ombudsman.

You might also want to consult with a tax charity or specialist tax adviser before you do this.

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The Adjudicator's Office

The Adjudicator's Office considers complaints of maladministration by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), for example:

  • excessive delay
  • errors
  • discourtesy.

The Adjudicator's Office will not consider:

  • legal disputes
  • complaints that have already been investigated by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman - see below
  • appeals against property valuations, including appeals against council tax bandings. These should be referred to Valuation Tribunals

For more details, see Council tax.

  • matters relating to a criminal prosecution during the course of legal proceedings.

A complaint should not usually be referred to the Adjudicator's Office until you have given HMRC a chance to remedy matters.

The contact details of the Adjudicator's Office are:

The Adjudicator's Office
PO Box 10280
Nottingham
NG2 9PF

Tel: 0300 057 1111
Fax: 0300 057 1212
Website: www.adjudicatorsoffice.gov.uk

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The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman may be able to help with complaints against HM Revenue and Customs if, for example, there has been:

  • avoidable delay
  • failure to give appropriate advice
  • failure to follow proper procedures.

The Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints about government policy or about tax legislation.

If you want to complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, you must first contact your MP and ask for the matter to be referred.

For more details about the ombudsman, in England, see How to use an ombudsman in England, in Wales, see How to use an ombudsman in Wales, in Northern Ireland, see How to use an ombudsman in Northern Ireland or in Scotland, see How to use an ombudsman in Scotland.

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Tax charities

If you can't get a satisfactory answer to your tax problem and you are on a low income, a specialist tax charity may be able to help you. There are two main tax charities:

  • TaxAid
  • Tax Help for Older People (TOP).

TaxAid

TaxAid runs a national telephone helpline service and face-to-face advice sessions in London and some major cities for people on a low income. They define low income as around £20,000 per year or less. They provide free and independent advice, assistance and advocacy to people who need help with tax or tax debt. They can help with problems about tax allowances, PAYE codes, tax arrears, self-employment, tax returns and HM Revenue and Customs administration and complaints.

You should try to sort out the problem first with HMRC and look at their website before contacting them. Their tax specialists can often advise how to resolve the problem over the phone. If the problem is complex, they may be able to offer you an appointment, but call or email them first. Their contact details are:

TaxAid
Tel: 0345 120 3779 (Mon to Fri 10am to 12 noon)
E-mail: info@taxaid.org.uk
Website: www.taxaid.org.uk.

TaxHelp for Older People

TaxHelp for Older People (TOP) is a free confidential service providing tax advice for pensioners over 60 on low incomes who cannot afford to employ a professional tax adviser. They define low income as less than £20,000 per year.

Appointments can be arranged at offices such as at Age UK, or at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Home visits can be arranged if you are disabled.

Their contact details are:

TaxHelp for Older People
Pineapple Business Park
Salway Ash
Bridport
Dorset
DT6 5DB

Helpline: 0845 601 3321 or 01308 488 066 (Mon to Thurs 9am to 5pm and Fri 9am to 4.30pm)
E-mail: taxvol@taxvol.org.uk
Website: www.taxvol.org.uk

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Fee-charging tax advisers

If your income is too high to qualify for advice from a tax charity, you may need to consult a commercial firm of advisers, who will charge a fee. The following professional bodies will help you find a local specialist:

The Association of Taxation Technicians
1st Floor, Artillery House,
11-19 Artillery Row,
London SW1P 1RT.
Tel: 0844 251 0830
Fax: 0844 251 0831
E-mail: info@att.org.uk
Website: www.att.org.uk

The Chartered Institute of Taxation
1st Floor, Artillery House,
11-19 Artillery Row,
London SW1P 1RT.
Tel: 020 7340 0550 or 0844 579 6700
Fax: 0844 579 6701
E-mail: post@tax.org.uk
Website: www.tax.org.uk

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales
Level 1
Metropolitan House
321 Avebury Boulevard
Milton Keynes
MK9 2FZ
Telephone 01908 248100
Fax: 01908 248088
Website: www.icaew.co.uk

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
CA House
21 Haymarket Yards
Edinburgh
EH12 5BH
Tel: 0131 347 0100
Fax: 0131 347 0105
E-mail: enquiries@icas.org.uk
Website: www.icas.org.uk

Chartered Accountants Ireland
The Linenhall
32-38 Linenhall Street
Belfast
BT2 8BG

Tel: 028 9043 5840
Fax: 028 9023 0071
Email: ca@charteredaccountants.ie
Website: www.charteredaccountants.ie

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
2 Central Quay
89 Hydepark Street
Glasgow
G3 8BW
Telephone: 0141 582 2000
Fax: 0141 582 2222
E-mail: info@accaglobal.com
Website: www.accaglobal.com

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Citizens Advice

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