ADR's powers

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HMRC’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service – officially launched on Monday after an extensive two-year pilot – has revealed more details about its powers to reject applications say Harris & Co chartered accountants Northampton, the specialist small business accountants.

Under the new scheme, ADR facilitators and managers can accept applications but only the SMEi (SMEs and individuals) ADR Panel - consisting of eight experienced HMRC managers and dispute resolution specialists - has the power to reject applications.

If an ADR facilitator is unsure whether an application should be accepted, three SMEi ADR managers are consulted.

David Croad, HMRC’s ADR business unit head, Local Compliance Planning Governance & Capability, said:

‘We advise anyone who has a sticky dispute with HMRC to fill out an application online. It only takes five minutes to complete and a decision whether to take it up or not is made within just 30 days. It will then take up to three months to reach a resolution. It much quicker than going to tribunal, improves the customer experience and results in a much quicker resolution.’

He defended the neutrality of the ADR personnel, stressing that they ‘had all been specially trained to make sure that they are impartial’. Staff had also been given ‘dozens of anonomised case studies’ to review, resulting in a100% success rate, as determined and reviewed by independent and impartial professional bodies such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT).

Croad added:

‘It’s incredibly robust, it’s free and it is exactly what external bodies and individuals have been telling us they want to see.’

ADR has been given the thumbs up by one of the accounting industry’s key professional bodies.

The Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) branded the new service - which allows SMEs and individuals to engage independent HMRC facilitators to resolve log-jammed tax disputes – as ‘the shape of things to come’.

Yvette Nunn, ATT president, said:

‘Tax dispute resolution has been in need of reform for far too long and this is, I believe, the shape of things to come. In appropriate circumstances, ADR should provide SME businesses and individuals and their advisers with a cost-efficient and effective way of settling disagreements.’

‘The results of the ADR pilot were very encouraging and we believe that its implementation will play a significant part in helping to resolve log-jammed disputes where neither party is managing to persuade the other of their position. HMRC engaged very positively with professional bodies and the voluntary sector and undertook extensive trials. The end product is one that we are very pleased with. We will be following developments very closely to ensure that ADR lives up to expectations.’

The final stage of the ADR trial for SMEs and individuals ended in December 2012.

During the trial, two thirds of ADR applications were accepted and were either fully or partially resolved.

Online ADR applications can be made HERE.

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