New figures show that challenging HMRC tax calculations pays off more than half of the time

Have you ever received a notification from HM Revenues & Customs and thought to yourself, surely this has to be wrong? The letter may well say you have underpaid income tax or national insurance contributions, but you know that the figures you’ve been presented with are inaccurate. Have you then decided against challenging the decision because in any sort of battle with the Revenue you suspect there can only ever be one winner? Well, maybe it’s time to think again. A new study by international business law firm, Pinsent Masons, has found that the majority of challenges against HMRC by UK taxpayers result in the original decision of the tax authority being amended or changed.

What exactly did Pinsent Mason’s data find? Well, for the year to March 31st 2016, in 57 per cent of cases where a review of the initial tax ruling was undertaken by another HMRC official, taxpayers successfully appealed the decision.  A spokesperson for Pinsent Masons said the data clearly shows that there should be no fear in challenging HMRC so long as your adviser or accountant thinks this is the sensible thing to do.

So how do you go about challenging HM Revenues & Customs? Well, taxpayers can either challenge decisions through a full appeal, or, more typically, by asking for a review: under changes introduced in 2010, taxpayers have been able to challenge an HMRC officer’s original decision and insist that any appeal or review is looked at by another HMRC official. Although there were understandable concerns about the integrity and independence of such appeals when they were first introduced, published figures suggest such fears were ungrounded.  Data shows HMRC’s staff are certainly not afraid to find fault with the decision-making processes of their work colleagues.

Of the challenges that reach the tribunal stage, HM Revenues & Customs figures suggest that more taxpayers than you might expect get their favoured result. In fact, according to the data published on Pinsent Masons’ the number of decisions appealed to an independent tribunal – where the taxpayer has won – increased from 13 per cent in 2014/15 to 18 per cent in 2015/16.

Speaking about the study’s findings, Heather Self, of Pinsent Masons, said:

“Many of HMRC’s recent successes relate to complex avoidance schemes implemented some years ago. [But] we are now seeing them challenge straightforward commercial planning, and expect taxpayers to win an increasing proportion of future cases.”

If you have received any notification from HMRC and feel the figures are inaccurate, then contact Steven Glicher accountants for more information and further advice. Call 0161 485 8007 or email

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