A taxpayer may at some stage be dissatisfied with the handling of their tax affairs by Revenue; naturally most disquiet will arise during the course of a Revenue audit 1 but issues can also arise on foot of other more mundane interaction. Most issues can be resolved amicably and with little fuss, however, on occasion satisfactory resolution is not possible. Perhaps the simplest and most cost effective method of resolving any issues that do arise is through the Revenue Complaint and Review Procedures.
Revenue recently published a revised version of the Revenue Complaint and Review Procedures Leaflet – CS4 which supersedes the Statement of Practice SP Gen/2/99 and is effective from 1 January 2013. CS4 outlines how a Revenue review should be instigated. The procedure is a three step process and can be outlined as follows:
- Make a formal complaint to the local Revenue office
- If step 1 does not resolve the issue satisfactorily the taxpayer should request a local review to be carried out by the Principal Officer from the local office, or in certain circumstances by the Principal Officer from the relevant regional/divisional office
- If step 2 does not resolve the issue satisfactorily the taxpayer can request a review to be carried out by an independent internal or external reviewer
It is important to note that Revenue may refuse to conduct a review where they form the opinion that the review is sought only to hamper an audit or investigation, or to avoid or delay publication of a settlement or where the complaint is considered to be frivolous or vexatious.
If a review gets to step 3 a outlined above the taxpayer has the option of requesting to have the case reviewed by an independent internal or external reviewer (but not by both) who will make a final decision on the issue. The position pre I January 2013 was that taxpayer had the option of requesting a review by an internal reviewer or a joint review by an internal and external reviewer.
In addition to the above procedures taxpayers have recourse to appeal a Revenue decision to the Appeal Commissioners, or make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman or to the Equality Tribunal. The review procedures as per CS4 do not interfere with the right of a taxpayer to take a case to the Appeal Commissioners, the Office of the Ombudsman or the Equality Tribunal.
Making a Formal Complaint (Step 1)
A formal complaint should be submitted to the taxpayer’s local Revenue office. Full details of the complaint should be provided. Revenue outlined the following list as illustrative of the information to be provided2:
- Full name and address
- Any relevant reference numbers e.g. PPSN, VAT Number, etc.
- What went wrong?
- When did it happen?
- What effect did Revenue’s actions have?
- All details and facts in support of the complaint, including reference, if relevant, to legislation and case law.
- Contact details, if the customer would like to be contacted by telephone. This may help resolve the issue more quickly.
If the complaint is not resolved to the satisfaction of the taxpayer a local review of the case can be requested. There is no set time limit for requesting a local review. However, a request for a local review should be made without unreasonable delay.
Local Review (Step 2)
A local review is to be carried out by the Principal Officer of the local Revenue office handling the case. If a taxpayer does not wish to raise their concerns with the local office the taxpayer can request to have the local review carried out by a Principal Officer in the regional office.
A request for a local review should be submitted in writing, by post or secure email to the chosen Principal Officer3. Emails relating to review requests can only be sent via Revenue’s Secure Email Service.
The Principal Officer handling the review examines the case based on the information supplied by the taxpayer and the Revenue documentation to reach a decision. The Principal Officer will then issue a letter to the taxpayer stating the outcome of the local review. The letter will detail how the outcome was reached with reference to tax legislation and/or case law where appropriate.
Internal or External Review (Step 3)
If the outcome of the local review is not to the satisfaction of the taxpayer a request can be made to have the case reviewed by an independent internal or external reviewer who will make a final decision on the issue. A taxpayer has 30 working days from the date of the local review decision to request either an internal or external review. Such a request should be made to:
- (By Post) – The Review Secretariat, Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2
- (By secure email) – ReviewSecretariat@revenue.ie
The Review Secretariat manages the administration of the internal and external review procedures.
The internal or external reviewer will consider the review based on the information submitted by the taxpayer and the pertinent Revenue documentation. The reviewer examines the case based on the information supplied by the taxpayer and the Revenue documentation to reach a decision.
The reviewer will then issue a letter to the taxpayer stating the outcome of the review. The letter will detail how the outcome was reached with reference to tax legislation and/or case law where appropriate.
Criteria for Conducting Reviews
The following criteria will apply (where applicable) in a local or internal/external review4
- Assess if the customer’s rights under the Customer Service Charter have been fully respected.
- Assess if the customer has fulfilled their responsibilities under that Charter.
- Evaluate whether administrative procedures outlined in Revenue’s Tax and Duty Manuals, Codes and Statements of Practice have been followed correctly. Examine if Revenue gave due consideration to the customer’s viewpoint.
- Consider if Revenue adopted a reasonable approach in dealing with the customer.
- Examine if the Revenue official’s conduct in dealing with the customer was appropriate.
- Evaluate if the Revenue official applied Revenue powers fairly.
- Ensure that any technical or legal approaches adopted are not manifestly incorrect or unreasonable.
Under Irish tax law there is an independent appeal process available to taxpayers to appeal against assessments and determinations by Revenue. A taxpayer can make an appeal by giving notice in writing to the relevant Revenue Inspector who will then arrange for the listing of the appeal with the Appeal Commissioners.
A taxpayer can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman if they are unhappy with the way that Revenue handled their tax affairs. The Ombudsman examines complaints from members of the public who feel they have been unfairly treated by certain public bodies. The Office of the Ombudsman has indicated that before a person makes a complaint to the Ombudsman that they should firstly make a complaint directly to the public body concerned5.
The Equality Tribunal handles complaints of alleged discrimination under equality legislation. The Equal Status Act 2000 legislates against discrimination in the provision of services that are provided to the public. Discrimination on the basis of any of the following is outlawed by the Equal Status Act:
The grounds are gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins and membership of the traveller community. If a taxpayer is unhappy with their treatment by Revenue and suspects that Revenue are in breach of the Equal Status Act a complaint can be made to the Equality Tribunal.
|Internal Reviews in 2011 (Per Revenue Annual Report 2011)
|Decision revised/partly revised
|Withdrawn or agreed prior to being sent to Reviewers
It is interesting to read the statistics published by the Revenue in their 2011 Annual Report pertaining to the outcome of complaints made during 2011 (note that the joint review option is no longer available). Of the 74 cases finalised in 2011, 55 cases were upheld in Revenue’s favour, 10 cases were revised or partly revised and 9 cases were withdrawn or agreed prior to review (table below). These statistics would indicate that there is little merit in making a complaint and proceeding with the review procedure.
As noted earlier in the article it is also possible to make a complaint to the Ombudsman. Revenue’s 2011 Annual Report provided the following statistics relating to complaints made to the Ombudsman:
|Total Completed and Outcome
|Number of Complaints
Out of the total complaints of 118 dealt with in 2011, it would seem that 22 were upheld in Revenue’s favour and that 23 had some form of resolution in favour of the taxpayer with the balance of the complaints not proceeding. The annual report does not provide any background as to why a complaint was withdrawn or discontinued. It could be that the taxpayer resolved the dispute with Revenue by other means or that they decided not to pursue the matter further.
While the statistics outlined above for taxpayer success in the review procedure or with the Ombudsman are not overly encouraging it would seem that a case with merit should have success. At the very least a taxpayer should be able to gain some assurance that their case has been dealt with within the law and in line with proper Revenue procedures and practice.
Furthermore, the costs of making a Revenue complaint (e.g. professional fees) are likely to be less than pursuing the matter by other means e.g. through the Courts.
Mark Doyle is Director of Doyle Tax Consultants Ltd
This article first appeared in the January issue of Chartered Accountants Ireland monthly tax journal tax.point.
1. See section 4.10.1 of the code of Practice for Revenue Audit regarding requesting a review of the conduct of a Revenue audit
2. Outlined in section 1 of the Revenue Complaint and Review Procedures Leaflet – CS4
3. Appendices B(i) and B(ii) of the Revenue Complaint and Review Procedures Leaflet – CS4 contain the email addresses of the Principal Officers handling the reviews in the local and regional offices.
4. Outlined in section 3 of the Revenue Complaint and Review Procedures Leaflet – CS4