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How do you address HMRC

How do you address HMRC

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I admit to being a bit "old school". Can't really bring myself to start emails with "Hi" and "Hello".

I still address letters to HMRC to Dear Sir, but wonder whether I am out of touch.

I am thinking particularly when you receive a letter from HMRC signed by Miss G Smith. ( A lot more common now and rightly so).

In an enquiry situation I like to have as much on the client's side as possible and I wonder whether having received a letter clearly signed by a lady it might not start on the wrong foot by addressing the reply to Dear Sir.

Any thoughts or am I just getting paranoid in my advancing years? Maybe some of the ladies out there can tell me how hey would feel?

Replies (25)

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By Steve Holloway
26th Oct 2012 09:44

Why would you not ...

address your letter to Dear Miss Smith? If someone has given you there name sure it is common courtest to reply to them surely?

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26th Oct 2012 09:45

It depends

If I have previously established a relationship with the Inspector (particularly where the individual has proved to be part of that rare breed - a reasonable person) I will address them by their name.

Otherwise I mark the letter For the attention of .... and address it to Dear Sirs


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By pushtheriver
26th Oct 2012 09:49


FAO has been my approach. Personal and formal at the same time.


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By vince8
26th Oct 2012 10:37


If its signed off yours faithfully I still use Dear Sir etc. HMRC will usually address your "firm" and you reply to their "firm" Use of FAO helps them sort the post.

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By Constantly Confused
26th Oct 2012 10:53

Dear Sirs

FAO Miss G Smith


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By George Attazder
26th Oct 2012 11:05

Me too...

FAO Miss G Smith

Dear Sirs,


Yours faithfully,

Georgie, Porgey, Pudden & Pi LLP

I also try and include the phrase, "you said... With the greatest respect, that's nonsense."

Amuses the hell out of me to start by saying with the greatest respect and then show none whatsoever.


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Replying to craigbisby1:
By B Roberts
26th Oct 2012 14:59

"with the greatest respect"

George Attazder wrote:

Amuses the hell out of me to start by saying with the greatest respect and then show none whatsoever.

I used to work with a chap who used to begin a sentence "with the greatest respect ...." on a regular daily basis.

Interestingly enough, I cannot recall one single example when this was not followed by a comment that was in no way respectful.

I have found this to be like when somebody starts a sentence with "I am not racist / ageist / sexist" (delete as applicable) and it is invariably followed by a comment that most would indeed consider to be racist / ageist / sexist.



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By stevenwarboys
26th Oct 2012 11:33

Dear Sir or Madam if i don't know who I'm writing to.

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By cathygrimmer
26th Oct 2012 12:23

Use the name if you know it

I always use the surname of the HMRC employee if they put it on their letter. And I get letters back addressed to me by name. I would only use Dear Sir/Madam if I didn't have a name - but then I'm a very informal person as my clients on AWeb will know!

Mind you - I'm not so informal that I'd address an HMRC officer by his/her first name in a letter - albeit that I would be perfectly happy if he/she used mine!


[email protected]



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By mrme89
26th Oct 2012 12:42

Fao: Miss G Miss


Dear Miss Smith


Thank you for your letter dated XXXXX. It was very articulate for a worker of HMRC (Her Majesties Right wing Cretins).


I do not agree that my client must pay £15,000 in tax and penalties on earnings of only £20,000.

Although, I do appreciate, as you stated, that you have your Christmas party coming up. However, my client has his mortgage to pay.


I do accept that my client failed to file his tax return, but your refusal to not accept it ludicrous (but not beyond belief).

Please accept the accompanying tax return for processing, and I hope to hear from you in the near future.


Yours faithfully


Jolly Jim Jones

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By FreddieZonko
26th Oct 2012 14:40

Another vote for FAO and Dear Sir

I've taken the decision that I'm writing to the organisation rather than a person. If there are discussions to be had I find it easier to deal with being at odds with HMRC rather than the officer.

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David Winch
By David Winch
26th Oct 2012 15:27

I always worry . . .

I always worry when reading transcripts of police interviews when the detained person begins a sentence: "Honestly . . . "!

Somewhat off topic, but posted with the greatest respect ;-)


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By GuestXXX
17th Mar 2015 15:46


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Replying to johnjenkins:
09th Nov 2012 07:30

Slight correction

secondhand_22 wrote:

I was always taught FAO and Dear Sir too

Because your letter is to HMRC (the body) not Mr So and So the person.  Its like in court cases its the office of the DfT (for example) that gets sued - not the MP holding the post at the time.

Pedantic, perhaps, but if using FAO, the correct address is Dear Sirs.

Which deals with this concern:

"I can't believe that anyone would write Dear Sir when they know they are writing to a woman"

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By La BoIS Saint
09th Nov 2012 03:58

I can't believe that anyone would write Dear Sir when they know they are writing to a woman. It truly beggars belief even for the accountancy "profession".

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Replying to stratty:
By Old Greying Accountant
09th Nov 2012 12:46

But ...

La BoIS Saint wrote:

I can't believe that anyone would write Dear Sir when they know they are writing to a woman. It truly beggars belief even for the accountancy "profession".

... you are writing to a government agency, an inanimate body, not a person. The fact it is for the attention of a specific representative changes nothing.

As a "professional" I prefer to keep things formal, my correspondence is between myself as my clients agent and HMRC as the government's agent.

From experience, politeness is good, informality is pointless, keep that for phone calls. However friendly you are they will still seek every opportunity to maximise the return for their efforts and written correspondence is prima facie evidence and potentially could be read out in public!

Besides anything else, Dear Madam sound a bit Cynthia Payne!

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By maxmillion
09th Nov 2012 08:24

Does it make any difference?

Am reading this thread with interest, but with the greatest respect, does it make any bit of difference?

I feel quite certain its unlikely that HMRC staff receive training on what to expect in mail/email from the public. My take is just so long as its polite, to the point and unambiguous about its intended recipient and destination, then it serves its purpose. But I certainly was unaware of the "Dear Sirs" pedantic approach suggested by BKD.

Personally, I also like "old school" and slightly more formal approach because its sets the tone of the message and differentiates from informal chatter. But unless there is a missing 60page procedural manual somewhere on "How to address HMRC staff" then its all moot, as it is more than likely, that they have younger or more junior staff dealing with the issue.

But getting back to the Original Poster's point. If HMRC staff have emailed giving their name, then I think it best to reply to that person by their name as in Dear Miss Smith. If both sender and recipient have signature link thingys with contact details in their email, then it is unlikely that there will be any confusion. If any doubt or if initiating the letter, then I write as follows "Miss J Smith, HMRC - Overpayments Department, HMRC HQ, The High Road, London, SW1. [new line] Dear Miss Smith,"

I can't help think that as we are members of the public, addressing a government department, and not professors of English or members of the establishment (Parliament or Royalty), so does the highfalutin approach ultimately make any difference to the tax due at all? (now if you talk about a prospective employee writing in with "Hi" on his job application letter... then that is another story)

I remain your obedient servant,



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By taxhound
09th Nov 2012 08:59

Does it make a difference?

@ maxmillion

Probably not, most of the time.  But if you send a properly addressed letter with correct grammar and spelling I think it can make a big difference to the impression that the reader will have about you - or perhaps they will not notice, but if you send a very badly written letter, it will create a very negative impression.

it reminds me of the house I saw in the local property paper last week in a "sort after location" (sigh).  I would of thought they new how to do that proper.

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By MarionMorrison
09th Nov 2012 09:42

I was always taught that I was writing to the District Inspector in which case it is the DI to whom the letter should be addressed - hence if it was a female DI it would be Dear Madam regardless of the sex of the person who wrote you the letter.  But I have long ignored this anyway.

Regardless of the 'right' thing, the idea from our point of view is to be persuasive and especially if you are trying to get something out of an Inspector then Dear Miss Smith is more likely to be warmly received than Dear Sir (which is stilted and formal) or Dear Sir: FAO Miss G Smith (which seems pedantic).  Indeed where an enquiry has been dragging on and I've become better acquainted with an Inspector I have got as far as addressing the letter to Miss G Smith and then starting Dear Gill.

The aim is to be effective before being gramatically or pedantically correct.

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Euan's picture
By Euan MacLennan
09th Nov 2012 09:54

Whatever you do

Avoid the PC form of address "Dear Sir or Madam".

If it is the first letter, I write "Dear Sirs".  If I am replying to a letter signed by Lesley Phillips, I write "Dear Ms Phillips".  If the letter is signed by Leslie Phillips, I write "Dear Mr Phillips".  I have got that the right way round, haven't I?

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Replying to WhichTyler:
By Old Greying Accountant
09th Nov 2012 10:02


Euan MacLennan wrote:

Avoid the PC form of address "Dear Sir or Madam".

If it is the first letter, I write "Dear Sirs".  If I am replying to a letter signed by Lesley Phillips, I write "Dear Ms Phillips".  If the letter is signed by Leslie Phillips, I write "Dear Mr Phillips".  I have got that the right way round, haven't I?

Generally, but I know women who spell it Leslie!

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By Old Greying Accountant
09th Nov 2012 10:08

Despite the temptation ...

... to say be disrespectful I and will put "For the Attention of ..." above the address if I have a name. If a female always Ms as it is very rare they tell you otherwise, although with non English names it is not always easy to tell, although Google and I do our best.

 I then always start Dear Sir, regardless of gender of whose attention it is for - as far as I am concerned I am writing to HMRC, not an individual, especially these days as there is no guarantee the person who wrote to you will be the one dealing with your reply .

As an aside, when calling HMRC to have a rant, I always start by saying, "when I say you, I mean HMRC, not you personally as I am sure you get a frustrated as me, but  ..." that way you generally get to vent your spleen without them hanging up, probably making no difference to the task in hand but it does make you feel better if you can get in to full flow! 



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By ACDWebb
09th Nov 2012 10:47

I'm sorry to drag this briefly OT

but whenever I see I see the thread title come up I am reminded of an ancient "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again" sketch entitled "How to address an envelope" - to which the answer is of course "hey you gummybum" with the follow up in instruction as to how to address the Queen that the opening gambit of "hey you gummybum" should under no circumstance ever be used.

Apologies. As you were :)

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By DMGbus
09th Nov 2012 13:26

Dear Sirs (not dear sir)

Plural "Sirs" I use when writing to any organisation rather than to an individual.

Plural means those within the organisation collectively, any one of which (male or female) might be tasked with dealing with my letter. 

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By Roy Prockter
09th Nov 2012 13:35

I use


Dear HM Revenue & Customs,


 seems to work!

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