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By Donia O'Loughlin | Published Jan 09, 2012

HMRC tries to resolve disputes

A pilot scheme introducing a new way of resolving disputes between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was launched today (9 January).

HMRC said the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a pilot for small and medium enterprises.

It uses independent HMRC facilitators to resolve disputes between HMRC and customers during a compliance check but before a decision or assessment has been made.

The ADR aims to find a “fair and quick outcome” for both parties, helping to reduce their costs and avoid a tribunal.

According to HMRC, the pilot in north Wales and the north west followed a successful trial earlier last year, where 60 per cent of disputes were either fully or partially resolved.

Jim Stevenson, assistant director for local compliance at HMRC, said ADR was a “good opportunity” for HMRC to work together with its customers to potentially resolve disputes much earlier than at present.

He said: “The facilitators are HMRC members of staff who have been trained in ADR techniques and have not been involved in the dispute.

“We have found that often there are communication problems. So the HMRC facilitator will help all parties reach a shared and full understanding of the disputed facts and arguments.

“They will also ensure there is good communication, and help explain what each side is trying to say to the other. The aim is to resolve the dispute or, if not, as many issues as possible.”

The ADR does not affect existing processes or review and appeal rights, and covers both VAT and direct taxes.

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