Tax disputes: how to challenge tax charges

Most UK taxes (apart from council tax) are dealt with by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC). If HMRC makes a mistake, it can be costly as well as inconvenient for you. You can help to prevent such mistakes by filling in your tax return accurately and on time, but it’s important to know what to do if things go wrong.

Appealing against HMRC decisions

When HMRC send you a decision or assessment, they will usually also send you details of how to appeal, where the appeal needs to be sent and when you need to do it by. You should send the appeal in writing, usually within 30 days of receiving the decision you’re disagreeing with.

You can use an appeal form (sent with the decision letter) or write a letter. You should include: your name (or that of your business), your reference number, the decision or assessment you’re appealing, why you think it is wrong, what you think the correct figures are and how you’ve calculated them.

Reviews and Tribunals

Often, appeals are settled by an agreement with HMRC. However, if you do not agree with their response to your appeal, you are normally entitled to ask for a review. This is when your case is reviewed by another HMRC officer who had no involvement with the original decision or appeal. If you disagree with the review you can ask for an independent tribunal. You should either write to the tribunal or fill in a tribunal form - found on the HMRC website - within 30 days of receiving the review conclusion.

Council Tax

The amount of council tax you are eligible to pay is calculated based on various factors, and if your local council doesn’t have all of your details correctly, you can end up paying more than you need to.

Challenging your band

Your council tax band is based on the value of your property in April 1991 if you live in England, and April 2003 if you live in Wales. This means that, if there have been changes to your property since then, you may be in the wrong band. To check that your band is correct, you can contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). You may be able to make a formal challenge to the VOA if you feel that their classification of your property is incorrect due to major changes that may have occurred.

Appealing a bill

If you think that your council tax bill is too high, for example if there is a disabled person living in your property and they haven’t made the correct exemptions, you should write to the council explaining why you think it is wrong. If you disagree with their response or they don’t reply within two months, you can take your case to the Valuation Tribunal. Whilst awaiting a response you should still continue to pay the amount on the original bill.

A financial adviser can help you plan ahead to meet your tax obligations.

Last updated: 02 June 2015