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Have Your Say: HMRC tax demands

HMRC brochure
Concern of letters sent to people owing tax

Brown envelopes marked Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs are seldom good news.

But when you owe a small amount of tax and are on the brink of paying it you don't normally expect to receive a letter threatening to remove and sell your possessions at auction.

But a number of Money Box listeners have received similar correspondence.

Have you received a letter like this?

What was your reaction?

Should the revenue behave in such a manner?

Did the tax demand turn out to be right?

Are you pleased the government is trying to get tax in on time?

Tell us your experiences.

I had 2 letters demanding a total £2500 for 2008-9 & 2009-10.

Because I am still working part time, they said I had underpaid on my state pension. They gave my employer my tax code!

When my local tax office looked at the demand letters, they immediately saw that the figure at the top of the letter gave my whole year pension amount, instead of the first 3 months Jan-March when the new codes were given by them!

HMRC are not reading the letters before they send them. If you try to ring you hold on for at least 20 minutes and do not get a satisfactory outcome. When I received a reply from my letter to them, it said: "Sorry for my replying to you".

It should have said: "Sorry for the delay in replying to you". It had taken a month before they replied. My 'demand' was reduced from £2500 to £500 which will be deducted by my Employer over the next tax year.


Jan, Norwich

I have over the past tax year, received numerous tax code forms with differing tax codes resulting in incorrect amounts of tax being deducted from my income.

I wrote to HMRC on 31st March, asking for the exact amount due by me and advising that I wanted to pay this amount in full but to date, have not had the courtesy of a reply.

I tried phoning, but like Paul, became frustrated by the interminable delay in getting a meaningful response. The website is not much help either!

Reverend Graham Opperman, Cwmbran

I have arranged a temporary monthly payment as I was unable to pay the full amount - last years + half in advance, being self employed.

I also received an extremely aggressive letter, threatening to sell my car, tv etc... I immediately rang HMRC, thinking they did not know about my arrangement. Instead I was told that they did know, but as I owed money, I would continue to receive letters, and phone calls until the last penny was paid!

I asked to speak to the head of department, and was told they did know who it was!

Ironically, I overpaid by £500 last year, and it took 6 months to receive the money back.

HMRC has a 'vision charter' which states 'We believe that most of our customers are honest and we treat everyone with respect'.....'we are passionate in helping those who need it and relenteless in pursuing those who break or bend the rules'.....'we behave professionally and with integrity'........

Says it all?

Karen, Cornwall

My brother had one of the letters about owing Tax. He tried 18 times to get through to them and encountered being cut off after hanging on for long periods of time.

He was ringing me frustrated, worried and distressed. Presumably people hanging on to speak to the Revenue Service for such long periods of time are paying telephone charges for the privilege - but worst of all - being worried about a letter like this out of the blue, they are being agitated and worried unnecessarily by the difficulties trying to resolve the issue arising.

Alexandra, Cardiff

I received these threatening letters from HMRC and I'd paid the tax on time!

Because my tax return was filed in January I had not received a tax demand before the deadline. Nevertheless I paid the amount my accountants rightly advised me was due by internet bank transfer using the reference I had used the previous year.

On 22nd February I received a 'final reminder' dated 11th February. That day I telephoned HMRC, explained the details and gave them full details of the payment. I was told my case would be transferred to Cumbernauld for investigation.

That didn't stop a statement dated 28th February being sent out still claiming overdue tax. To prevent misunderstanding I replied in writing with full details of the payment made. Then the letters started. First of all one dated 2nd March from Debt Management saying I had not paid unlike 99% of taxpayers. I ignored that in view of my recent letter to HMRC.

Then another dated 16th March (but not received until 27th March)talking about seizing my possessions. So I telephoned again and was told my payment had just been found and transferred but that there was a further charge which had not been raised before.

I paid that using the right reference the following day. Yet I received a letter dated 28th March saying a field agent was about to be sent to my house to collect an assessment of £456.00 which had only been raised a fortnight previously and which had only come to my attention the day before their letter.

Why when I made my first call was not debt collection not put on hold whilst my claim that payment had been made was investigated?

Why do HMRC letters take so long to arrive?

Richard, Kingsbridge

I've had a tax bill for £980. I phoned the tax office and it appears that my employer has used the wrong tax code. I only work 12 hours a week and was hoping to retire this summer and live on my pension. I written to the tax office and am waiting for them to respond. I find the whole thing really scary.

Helen, Conwy

Dealing with HMRC is impossible. They don't answer the phone, think taking weeks to answer letters is OK. They are incapable of dealing with more than one source of income, so be warned when you are drawing pensions.

Our experience has been like attending a Mad Hatters Tea Party where the rules can be made up by HMRC as they want! We have finally resolved 2008/9 issues, now have 2010/11 and 2011/12 to fight.

When we challenged we were told we'd have to wait until May when the P60's were issued to prove that we only had one pension from a provider, even though they have confirmed by email that this is so.

How can they threaten to take possessions when they owe people hundreds and thousands of pounds in overpaid taxes? I think I'll write to them and say that I'm going to come a take what they owe us.

Too much reliance on overambitious IT projects, obviously under resourced and under trained staff. Compare HMRC to the pensions department who are, for now, quick, responsive and efficient. Highly paid senior HMRC staff should be held accountable for the mess the department is in.

Liz, Towcester

I have had a letter from HMRC for a supposed "debt" of unpaid class 2 national Insurance of £250. Except I haven't been self employed for 3 years and HMRC seem unable to change my records. This approach is disgusting.

Andy, London

As I understand it, tax is payable on invoices submitted. With the work that I undertake it can be several months (and has been more than 18 months) before my invoice is paid. As a consequence, I may well have to pay tax before I have received payment. I, therefore, have difficulty in finding the money to pay my tax bill.

Now the Revenue are sending out letters stating that they have raised a Court Order. One is, therefore, charged for the cost of the Court Order and, more importantly, the Court Order is made public.

It counts as a negative in credit ratings, and one then receives unsolicited letters from debt management companies. The worst is the consequences of the Court Order on one's credit rating. This is grossly unreasonable.

Alan, Birmingham


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