Guidance for the Public

Making a Complaint

A guide for the public to the disciplinary process applicable to members of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Association of Taxation Technicians and the Institute of Indirect Taxation.

Introduction

One of the important factors in preserving public confidence in a profession is the establishment and maintenance of appropriate professional standards of conduct for its members and the exercise of professional discipline over those who do not comply with those standards.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation ('the Institute'), The Association of Taxation Technicians ('the Association') and the Institute of Indirect Taxation all have powers to issue professional rules and practice guidelines for their members and all have done so. Copies of these are available from the Secretary of the relevant body and on its website.

The three bodies also have power to enforce these practice standards through the exercise of disciplinary procedures. To undertake this The Taxation Disciplinary Board Ltd ('the Board') was established in 2001. The function of the Board is to undertake the fair and expeditious handling, investigation and adjudication of complaints on an impartial and independent basis and, where a complaint is proven, to impose appropriate penalties or sanctions within the powers granted to the Board by the Councils of the two Institutes and the Association. The Board is empowered to deal with complaints alleging breaches of professional standards and guidance, the provision of inadequate professional service, and conduct unbefitting a professional person.

Members of those bodies have subscribed to this regime as a condition of their membership and as a reflection of the advantages which accrue to them as members of that professional body. Students of the bodies are also included within the disciplinary process, as are firms that come within the jurisdiction of the participating bodies.

This Guide outlines the disciplinary process and gives guidance to the public in the event that they have a complaint about the activities of a member of the Institutes or the Association. It is not intended to provide definitive legal advice. In the event of any conflict between this leaflet and the Regulations, the latter take precedence. The Scheme and Regulations can be found elsewhere on this website.

Making a complaint against a member is not a substitute for seeking damages or other redress through the courts. The Board's jurisdiction over members of the Institutes and the Association is regulatory and disciplinary in nature. The Board is not in a position to give you legal advice. If you feel that you have a claim in law against a member of the Institutes, Association or the IIT you may wish to seek independent legal advice. The Board cannot intervene in fee disputes, as it considers that the courts are the proper forum for such matters. Nor can the Board advise on what is a reasonable sum for work done. The Institute or the Association can, however, advise on whether their Members have complied with professional conduct regulations relating to fees.

The Complaints Procedure

Because the Institute, Association and IIT expect their members and students to maintain standards of work and conduct which are compatible with the importance of the tax profession and which meet the expectations of the public, the system allows a person to make a complaint if they believe these standards have been breached.

Any member of the public can at any time approach the Secretary of either body for information about the standards of conduct which apply.

A complaint about the professional conduct of a member or student of any of the three bodies can be made to the Executive Director of the Board.

Role of the Board

The Board operates independently of the Institute, Association and IIT. It has established the following process for dealing with complaints that it receives.

1. The Review stage

If a formal complaint is made to the Executive Director of the Board he, or his representative, will send you a standard complaint form, in the light of which your complaint will be examined by an officer of the Board known as the Reviewer. That individual will consider whether your complaint falls within the jurisdiction of the Board, and that the complaint has been submitted within twelve months of the events which form the subject matter of your complaint. Provided that these basic criteria are met, the Reviewer will forward the complaint to the member about whom you are complaining, and give you an opportunity to make any observations on the response received from the member. If the Reviewer considers that the matter is trivial or vexatious he will inform you accordingly. If you object to that decision, you are entitled to request that the matter be considered by an Investigatory Assessor, who is an independent person appointed by the Board. In most cases, however, the Reviewer is likely to refer the complaint for examination by the Investigation Committee. In most cases it is likely to take some three or four months before your complaint reaches the Investigation Committee.

2. The Investigation Committee

The role of this Committee is to investigate all matters referred for examination in order to determine whether or not a prima facie case has been made out against the member who has been complained about. (A prima facie case means that there is an arguable case to answer.) The Committee comprises between three and five members drawn from a panel composed of members of the participating bodies and lay members of the public. All the members of the panel are appointed by the Board and operate independently of the Institute, Association and IIT. At each meeting of the Committee, there will be a majority of lay members. The Committee meets in private. Neither you nor the Member is invited to attend and all the consideration is based on the documentary evidence submitted.

The Committee will have before it a report prepared by the Reviewer based upon the correspondence which he has previously conducted in relation to your complaint. The Committee will examine the material submitted to it and, if appropriate, will request the Reviewer to undertake any further enquiries which it considers necessary to ascertain the full facts of the complaint and the evidence available to support the allegation. After full investigation and examination of the available information, the Committee may dismiss the complaint or find that there is a prima facie case to answer. If there is found to be a prima facie case to answer, the Committee may decide either to take no action if it is not serious enough to merit any sanction available to the Disciplinary Tribunal, or to refer the complaint to the next stage. Both you and the member under investigation will be advised of the Committee's decision and the reasons which led to that decision, and you will have a right of appeal to an Investigatory Assessor if you object the Committee's decision. The Assessor, whose decision is final, may uphold the Committee's decision or refer the matter back to a new Investigation Committee, who will consider the matter afresh.

3. The Disciplinary Tribunal

If the Investigation Committee considers that there is a prima facie case to answer, it may refer the case to a Disciplinary Tribunal. The Disciplinary Tribunal is composed of three members, two of whom are lay members and one a member of either Institute or Association; the Chairman of the Tribunal is legally qualified. The tribunal sits in public, and you are entitled to attend, even if you do not choose to give evidence. The role of the tribunal is to hear the evidence presented to it by a lawyer acting on behalf of the Board in order to determine whether or not the alleged conduct is proven and to make a finding accordingly. The defendant has an opportunity to give evidence, although he is not obliged to do so and may choose not to attend the tribunal.

If a breach of discipline has been found, the panel may impose such penalty as they consider appropriate in the light of the powers given to them, the gravity of the breach and the facts and arguments presented. The Disciplinary Tribunal has a wide range of sanctions available to it. These include the imposition of a requirement to apologise, a fine or an admonishment through to the more severe sanctions of suspension or expulsion from the Institute, Association or IIT. There is also a power to award compensation where the Tribunal has made a finding of Inadequate Professional Service. Its decisions will be sent in writing to both the defendant and the complainant, with reasons given for the Tribunal's decisions. They will also normally be published, and there are rights of appeal to the Appeal Tribunal (described at section 4 below).

4. The Appeal Tribunal

There is a final stage available to the Board and to the defendant, following a decision by the Disciplinary Tribunal. You are not entitled to appeal against a decision of a Disciplinary Tribunal, but the Board or the member may apply for a hearing before the Appeal Tribunal. They may do so only on the grounds that there has been a serious procedural or other irregularity in the Disciplinary Tribunal, that the finding or sanction was wrong or unreasonable or that new evidence has become available which, had it been available earlier, would materially have affected the finding of the previous Tribunal. The request to make an appeal will first be considered by a Disciplinary Assessor in order to ensure that the appeal comes within the specified grounds. If permission to appeal is granted, the case will be heard by an Appeal Tribunal. This body normally sits in panels of three, including two lay members and a member of either Association or the Institute; the Chairman of the Appeal Tribunal is legally qualified. The Appeal Tribunal may uphold, modify or overturn any finding of the Disciplinary Tribunal. Its decision is final within the process.

Your Rights and Actions

You are entitled to expect that all members of the Institute, Association and IIT, including students and firms which come within their jurisdiction, will conduct themselves in a professional manner both in the provision of their services and in their conduct. They are obliged to comply with the Professional Rules and Practice Guidelines issued by the body to which they belong. If you believe that a member or student has failed to meet the professional standards expected of him or her or has provided inadequate professional services or has otherwise demonstrated conduct unbefitting a member of his profession, you should contact the Executive Director of the Board.

If you wish to complain you should give the name and address of the person against whom you are complaining and the nature of the complaint. Although you may initially make contact by telephone you will be asked to confirm the relevant details in writing. After determining whether or not the alleged breach is within the rules and guidelines to which the individual is subject, and having made contact with that individual, the Executive Director, or his representative, will advise you how the matter is to be taken forward. At each stage of the process you will be kept informed, and there are time limits set for the exchange of correspondence in order to reduce delays in bringing complaints before the appropriate forum.

If, as is usually the case, the complaint is referred for detailed examination by the Investigation Committee it is possible that you will receive a request for further information to assist its investigation. You will be advised of its decision and, if the matter proceeds to a Disciplinary Tribunal, you will be informed of the date, time and location of the hearing, which you will be invited to attend as an observer.

The TDB aims to ensure that all complainants are treated fairly. If you are unhappy with the way your case has been handled you may complain to the Board who will review the case. Such a review is limited to the conduct of the TDB staff and is not a way of appealing against a decision.

Conclusion

The Taxation Disciplinary Board is concerned to ensure that there is a fair and independent investigation of every complaint referred to it and also to ensure the fair treatment of any person against whom a complaint is made. The current procedures are also designed to enhance the standing of the tax profession by maintaining high standards of conduct and by ensuring that complaints are dealt with in an independent and impartial way.

This informal guide is intended to give brief information about the disciplinary process. Anyone who becomes involved in that process may also consult the text of the relevant Professional Rules and Practice Guidelines, which are published on the websites of the Institute and the Association. The detailed provisions of the Taxation Disciplinary Scheme and associated Regulations are available elsewhere on the Board's site.

All correspondence should be addressed to:

The Executive Director,
The Taxation Disciplinary Board,
PO Box 224, Rushlake Green, Heathfield, TN21 1DQ 
Tel: 01825 890 668