How to appeal against an HMRC decision - direct tax

Your dealings with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will normally be routine. But there may be occasions when you disagree with a decision made by HMRC. If this happens, you may be able to challenge the decision by appealing.

In most cases your appeal will be settled by reaching an agreement with HMRC. But if you can't agree, you can ask for either of the following:

  • a review by HMRC
  • your appeal to be heard by an independent tribunal

This guide explains how to appeal against a 'direct tax' decision (please see the section below listing all direct taxes). It also explains what options are available to you after you have appealed, if you and HMRC can't agree.

On this page:

List of 'direct taxes'

The process described here applies to what HMRC calls 'direct taxes' in this guidance. You should follow the 'direct tax' process if you disagree with a decision relating to any of the following, or any associated penalties:

  • Income Tax (including Self Assessment and tax collected by employers under PAYE)
  • Corporation Tax
  • Capital Gains Tax
  • National Insurance contributions
  • deductions under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)
  • statutory payments, eg Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, etc
  • Inheritance Tax
  • Petroleum Revenue Tax
  • student loan repayments
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax
  • Stamp Duty Reserve Tax
  • Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED)

The 'direct tax' process also applies if the decision you disagree with relates to:

  • notices requiring you to send HMRC information or documents, whether on a direct tax or a VAT matter
  • a penalty for failing to comply with one of these notices

If the decision you don't agree with relates to a tax not in this list, you might want to check the process for what HMRC call 'indirect taxes'.

What to do if you don't agree with an HMRC decision - indirect tax

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How and when to make your appeal to HMRC

When HMRC write to you with a decision they will also tell you:

  • if you have a right to appeal
  • how to appeal
  • what time limits apply
  • where to send the appeal

You must send your appeal to HMRC in writing, normally within 30 days of the date of decision you disagree with.

You can either use an appeal form (which you may have been sent with the decision letter) or you can appeal by letter.

Information you will need to provide with your appeal

HMRC will need the following information from you:

  • your (or your business) name
  • your reference number (as shown on the decision letter)
  • the decision(s) or assessment(s) you are appealing against
  • an explanation of what you disagree with and why
  • what you think are the correct figures and how you've calculated them (where relevant)

What to do if you have missed the deadline for your appeal

Appeals sent to HMRC after the 30-day appeal period has passed may be accepted if you have a reasonable excuse why the appeal was late.

You will need to give HMRC an explanation of why your appeal has been sent in after the 30-day appeal period and show that you appealed as soon as you could.

If HMRC does not accept your late appeal, they will tell you. You can then apply to the tribunal to accept your late appeal. For more information about applications to the tribunal see the section below: 'Appealing to the First-tier Tribunal'.

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Postponing payment of some or all of the tax due

If you have sent an appeal to HMRC you can apply to postpone paying the amount of tax you think you are being overcharged as a result of the decision.

To apply to postpone the tax payment you will need to write to HMRC at the address shown on the decision letter and tell them:

  • why you think the amount you (or your business) have been asked to pay is too much, and by how much
  • what amount you propose to pay while your appeal is being settled

HMRC will write to you and tell you whether or not they agree with postponing the tax payment due or they may suggest an alternative amount should be postponed. If they don't agree you can ask the tribunal to decide the matter.

Charges with interest accruing

Interest will still accrue on the postponed amount until the appeal is resolved and any unpaid tax is paid. An appeal may be resolved by being settled by agreement between you and HMRC or decided by the tribunal.

You can limit the interest accruing by paying the amount due.

If the decision is changed and HMRC owes you money then you will be repaid the difference with interest.

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Appeals settled by agreement with HMRC

Most appeals are settled by agreement with HMRC.

HMRC will consider your reasons for appealing and may agree with you whether, and how, the decision should be amended. HMRC will confirm the agreement in writing and you will have 30 days within which to tell HMRC if you change your mind.

They will then amend the amount of tax or penalty you or your business has to pay.

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If your appeal can't be settled by agreement

If your appeal can't be settled by agreement HMRC may offer you a review.

Alternatively, at any time after sending your appeal to HMRC you can either:

  • ask HMRC to review their decision
  • ask the tribunal to consider your appeal

If you choose to have a review of HMRC's decision you can still ask the tribunal to consider your appeal, once the review has finished. But you cannot do both at the same time.

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How to have an HMRC decision reviewed

HMRC aims to settle most appeals by agreement. In some cases, after considering your reasons for appealing and discussing your reasons with you, HMRC may still be unable to agree with you.

Where this happens they will write to you and explain why they don't agree with you. They will also offer you a review of their decision by another officer not previously involved in the original decision.

If HMRC offers you a review you should write to them at the address on the letter, telling them whether you accept the offer. You need to do this within 30 days of the offer being made.

Even if HMRC hasn't offered you a review, you can write to the officer who made the original decision and ask for a review. If you do this HMRC will write to you explaining their view of the matter under appeal. Usually they have 30 days to do this. The review will not start until after this has happened.

Late acceptance of a review offer

If HMRC offer you a review but you do not write to HMRC accepting the offer until after the 30-day period has passed, HMRC will still carry out a review if you have a reasonable excuse why your acceptance was late.

You will need to give HMRC an explanation of why your acceptance was sent in after the 30-day period and show that you replied as soon as you could.

If HMRC does not think your explanation is reasonable they will write and tell you why. You may then send your appeal to the tribunal, and ask the tribunal to accept your appeal late, if you wish. For more information about appealing to the tribunal see the section below, 'Appealing to the tribunal'.

What happens during the review and how long does it take?

HMRC will appoint an officer, who has not previously been involved with the decision you are appealing against, to carry out a review of the decision. You can put your case to the review officer. This is usually done in writing but other arrangements can be made.

The review will usually be completed within 45 days. In some cases it may take longer and HMRC will get in touch and ask you to agree to a longer period. If HMRC do not write to you telling you the outcome of the review within the review period you can send your appeal to the tribunal.

When the review has been completed the review officer will write and tell you their decision.

If HMRC does not complete their review within the 45 days (or longer agreed period) they will usually ask you whether you will agree to an extension so that they can finish the review. If no extension is agreed, they will write to you explaining that the review is upheld. You will then have 30 days to send your appeal to the tribunal, if you wish to do so.

If you don't agree with the review conclusions

If you disagree with the decision reached by the review officer you can ask for your appeal to be heard by an independent tribunal. You need to do this within 30 days of the review conclusion letter (or the letter telling you that the review conclusion is treated as upholding the original decision). The tribunal can alter the decision if it thinks it is wrong. For more information about appealing to the tribunal see the section below, 'Appealing to the First-tier Tribunal'.

If you don't reply to the review conclusions

If you don't reply to the letter telling you the decision reached by the review officer, or send your appeal to the tribunal, within 30 days, HMRC will assume that you agree with them. They will then amend the decision in line with the outcome of the review and, where relevant, will amend the amount of tax or penalty you or your business has to pay.

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Appealing to the First-tier Tribunal

If you want a tribunal to consider your appeal or application you must send it to the tribunal. If you have not been offered a review you can do this at any time after sending your appeal to HMRC. However if you have:

  • been offered a review, and do not want one, you must send your appeal to the tribunal within 30 days of date of the letter offering the review
  • had a review and HMRC have written to you telling you their review conclusion (or to tell you that the review conclusion is treated as upholding the original decision) you must send your appeal to the tribunal within 30 days of date of that letter

You can do this either by writing to the tribunal or completing the tribunal appeal form.

You can only ask for your appeal to be considered by the tribunal if you have already sent an appeal to HMRC. You do not have to have a review as well.

However you can't ask for a review by HMRC if you have already appealed to the tribunal, or appeal to the tribunal if you have already asked for a review by HMRC.

Appealing to the Tax tribunal (Opens new window)

Tribunals appeal forms are available from the Justice website (Opens new window)

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Getting someone to appeal or ask for a review for you

You don't have to appeal or ask for a review personally. An accountant or other adviser can do this on your behalf.

Authorising an accountant to deal with HM Revenue & Customs for you

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What to do if you want to provide further information

If at any time, you have further information that you think might affect HMRC's decision, you should send it to the officer who sent you the decision letter. You can continue to discuss your affairs with this officer even if you have asked for a review or appealed to the tribunal.

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More useful links

Make a complaint to HM Revenue & Customs

What to do if you can't pay your tax bill

HMRC decisions - what to do if you disagree factsheet (PDF 56K)