Incompetent Inland Revenue

When I was a contractor I had to submit my yearly Self Assessment Tax Return, it’s something you just have to do and it’s awful. This is where you account for what you spent and earned and try and let the Inland Revenue know that you’ve actually paid all the taxes you need to and that you’re due a refund.

About four or five years ago, I forget the exact dates, I left contracting and took up permanent employ. For those of you who have been contractors you will know that this move means a startling discovery – your straight pay takes a rapid nose dive into the ground.

One of the benefits of this meant that I no longer needed to submit my annual Tax Return – thank the lord because it was as bad as having my toenails ripped out.

Except disaster struck. Two of my Returns weren’t submitted, partially because I didn’t get the information to my Accountant, and partly because he never chased me after that. Whatever the reasons, this passed me by and I was blissfully unaware of the error.


Until I received the demand for a fine of overdue taxes. What did they mean? I had stopped being liable for these taxes ages ago, and the fine looked large and straight out of the blue.

After a phone conversation I was told that this was done to the non-submittal of a Tax Return, and that they would freeze the fine while I had time to complete it. That wasn’t so bad then, still a fine, but my fault so I’ll take that hit.

Out came the single form for the overdue Tax Return. I completed it, with a long struggle to find my correct P60, and sent it in along with the fine. Fantastic I thought, there was nothing to pay anyway and it was all finally done.

Not so. A month or so later I received another letter which told me that within the week the Courts would be approached to try and recover the outstanding debt that they had calculated I owed! What? I was extremely surprised and not to say worried.

Another call informed me that I hadn’t completed the second overdue Tax Return.

“What Tax Return?” I asked

“I’ve already just filled one in and sent it back, what other one?”

“Yes we have that on record, but you haven’t submitted the following years either.”

“No one told me about that, and yet I was talking to your department a month ago. You can’t be expecting me to pay for a fine from then. No one told me about it.”

“Yes they did, it’s on our records.”

“No one told me about it, and they even sent out the Tax Return forms for the one year, there were no forms for the following year. If there had been I would have completed them and returned them.”

“The records show you were told”

“No, I…

This went on for a short while. Eventually we gave up and she arranged for the forms to be sent out. Frankly I didn’t care what the records said, I’d not been told and I was only sent the forms for one year, not this one they were now claiming I’d ignored again!

So I filled these in and sent them off once more. Luckily it showed I was only due £1. Alongside this I wrote a letter saying that I was quite happy to pay the fine up until the date of the first tax return but not any further, after all it wasn’t my fault from then on. That was sent on the 11th of October.

A few days later I received a demand for unpaid fines on that outstanding Assessment up until the 4th of October. No acknowledgement of the letter. Current running total £559.38.

Then I received another demand on the 6th of November for the same fines, and still no acknowledgement of either my letter or the Tax Return forms. Current running total £562.32.

So I decided to phone and ask what was going on. My first attempt to call just rang out, but the second day I managed to get someone. I was told that both the letter and the Tax Return had been received but that the Return hadn’t yet been processed.

I asked why I was still being sent demands and why I had received no notification, the answer? Simple.

Just ignore those, hold out for a new one.

So in the meantime I’ll still keep receiving demands. What a waste of my time, of theirs and of our public money. Couldn’t they just halt the demands until they’ve processed the Return? What about acknowledging the letter and letting me know what they’re going to do about the account?

If this were a private company offering a genuine service I’d have dropped them, demanded my money back, and they’d be quickly losing customers.

3 comments on “Incompetent Inland Revenue”

  1. Patrick Hadfield Reply

    Not good news. Once you get on their lists, you may find you have to do a tax return annually anyhow.

    Last year, the Revenue told me that I wouldn’t need do send a self assessment form, but looking at the hash either they or payroll dept make of PAYE, I reckoned it was better keep sending a return – the last few years, they have owed me money.

    Filling in the form shouldn’t be too onerous; it is the ridiculous calculations that make it a chore. Get it in before the end of September (like the ads say…) and HMIT (or whatever they now are) do it for you.

  2. Richard Reply

    I’ve actually managed to get off the requirements for a Self-Assessment…since I stopped contracting I don’t earn as much as the bracket requires so things are a lot easier.

    I just keep an eye on my PAYE reference, and cross check that every now and again. I’ve never really had much of a problem there except moving between jobs.

    Yes, doing it in time, etc, etc, makes it very easy. However if your accountant doesn’t do it and it gets forgotten about then there’s nothing to help, and you can’t fill out past returns online.

  3. Lee Reply

    I’ve had to do two tax returns when I was a late teenager – I had limited income but had National Grid shares from the age of 18. After 2 years they clearly thought it wasn’t worthwhile as I wasn’t paying top rate so didn’t bother after that.

    I haven’t had a request to do one for last year, when my I started contracting. I owe them extra tax on share dividends and bank interest, and I have a feeling it’s up to me to contact them but I’m not sure.

    And to say I used to work for the Inland Revenue too (collectors, not inspectors – TOTALLY different breed).

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