The NMA Experience
The HMRC ADR Team, Winner of the Mediation Innovation Award 2020
HMRC’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) team, formed in 2012, mediates disputes between HMRC and its customers when they have reached an impasse in an enquiry, and we are extremely proud to have won the Innovation Award at this years’ National Mediation Awards.
ADR can be become involved at any stage of an HMRC enquiry, either before the department has issued its final decision or after. In cases where the decision hasn’t been issued yet, the team can work with the parties to talk through issues which might be causing an impasse or restore communication that may have broken down. In the cases where the decision has been issued, we provide an opportunity for both parties to try and reach an agreement together before the case reaches Tribunal.
The majority of our mediations would take place in face-to-face meetings, but the pandemic and the ensuing social distancing restrictions has meant that we’ve had to consider how to be able to continue offering our services. We already offered telephone mediation in certain cases, but we wanted to see how else we could better support our customers and explore other options. As a result, we decided to look at the possibility of offering video mediations. Seeing each other and being able to see when others want to raise a point or read facial expressions as part of mediation is hugely beneficial for all involved, but video also had some issues to overcome. As a department, HMRC is responsible for personal information about every individual and business in the UK so it was extremely important that we considered customer confidentiality and be assured that video meditation was something we could confidently offer to our customers while remembering our legal responsibilities.
With this assurance in place, the team were quickly upskilled in how to carry out video mediations, resulting in us being able to offer the option of video to our customers in only a few weeks after the lockdown started. The results have been successful, and we have decided to continue to offer video mediation as a first option once the pandemic is over as a matter of course.
Dealing with HMRC can be daunting for some customers so we have also implemented other changes to make things easier for them. In July 2019 we launched a new online application system which has simplified the process for customers to apply for ADR, making it easier for them to access our service. We have also created an ADR leaflet specifically targeted at non-represented customers, explaining how ADR may be able to help them.
HMRC’s ADR team are constantly reassessing the service that we offer and always striving to improve it. We continually evaluate our impact by gathering structured feedback at the end of every mediation and our latest figures show that 95% of customers or their agents said that they would recommend the use of ADR to resolve tax disputes, with 94% either satisfied or very satisfied with the ADR process within HMRC.
The customer is always at the heart of what we do and winning this award really acknowledges the hard work our team has put in to ensure we are able to offer a great service to our customers especially in these uncertain times.