HMRC Failings

This week, MPs declared that HMRC is still failing taxpayers in umpteen ways – which is no surprise to anyone who has to deal with them on an even vaguely regular basis.

Now that I’m doing the self-employed thing, I’ve spent more time than I should on the phone to the idiots.

From the article

In 2011-12, HMRC answered 74% of calls from the public, but by the start of 2015, it only answered 50% of them, the MPs said.

Honestly, I’m amazed it’s as high as 50%…

Taxing The Tolerance

As regular readers probably vaguely recall, HMRC have never been an organisation I’m a great fan of.  I find it amazing that they can be quite as unhelpful, disorganised, obstructive and basically clown-like they really are.

Way back in the 2012-13 tax year – about the only year in my entire employment history where I worked fully PAYE for just one employer throughout the year – supposedly I underpaid my tax by just over £600. Yep, underpaid by £50 a month, all year – and somehow I am responsible for a fuckup that I have absolutely no influence or input on, so I have to repay that money. Even though the entire thing was between HMRC and my employer at the time, and I wouldn’t know one end of a tax calculation from the other.

It’s hardly going to ensure that either HMRC or the payroll department have to get things right, is it – if the only person penalised by those two sections fucking up is the person paying the tax, not the people who’ve actually screwed it up.

Anyway, the figures were disputed by me, and it’s been going on for two years now, with HMRC doing fuck-all. (Which seems to be what HMRC excels at)

I got a final demand for the money last month, with a deadline of this week. I’ve spoken to them in the meantime, but no, because of other figures and assumptions they’ve made, it was pay it all, or start having legal proceedings. Always fun.  And despite repeated requests, HMRC still haven’t given me any of the figures that have brought them to the conclusion that I’ve underpaid.  (Which also makes me think the entire thing is dodgy as shit, if they’re so unwilling to provide documentation)

Today I called them to make the payment, and spoke to someone vaguely competent. It still took an hour (and of course that’s at my expense, both in time, and cost of the call) but things are more promising now.  Bear with me, this might take some time…

The person in question looked into the entire thing.  Weirdly, despite having had the same employer all year, my record shows three – because the company in question went through restructures and fucking about. So they’ve screwed things up from that point. The screwup is still there, and still my fault – but at least I (sort of) understand where it’s come up. They’ve also promised to send me the calculations and explanations, although I’m not holding my breath on that score…

However.   Ah, the however.   It turns out that I also overpaid tax in tax year 2013-14 – something that HMRC have completely failed to tell me at all. It’s been a year, but nope, no information about overpaid tax, or anything. If only they were as good at telling you you’re due a refund as they are when you’ve under-paid.

Additionally, somewhere along the line – and bear in mind that HMRC now receive “RealTime Information” with every payroll run about my details, employer details, salary, and tax paid – HMRC have decided that my expected income for this tax year (2014-15) to be in the region of £150,000.  No-one can tell me where that figure has come from, or how it’s fallen into their system – because of course it’s updated every fucking week with the correct and up-to-date information – but there we go, a calculation that I’ll receive a salary nearly three times what’s expected.

All of which means that I now have only about £200 to repay (still not my fault, but sometimes the fight just isn’t worth it any more) because the overpayment from 2013/14 has balanced most of what was ‘underpaid’ in 2012/13.  So that should be all sorted now. I can pay that £200, and we’ll all be good.

Except – yep, another however/except…

Here we are, in February 2015.  Online payments have been around for a good decade. Payments by phone for a lot longer than that – probably what, 25 years now?

And HMRC don’t have any system for paying unpaid/outstanding PAYE payments online. Or by phone. Or by debit/credit card at all.  The ONLY ways that HMRC can take a payment for unpaid PAYE are – are you ready for this? – by cheque, postal orders, or banker’s draft.  (Or by taking it out of the tax payments for the forthcoming tax-year – which I didn’t want to do, for a number of reasons)  They can take payments online for other things, but not unpaid PAYE.  No-one can explain why – the best I got was “We’re looking into it, but the system isn’t ready yet”.  But with unpaid PAYE, we’re back int the 1970s.

My bank hasn’t issued cheque-books now for at least five years. The person I spoke to didn’t even realise you had to pay extra for postal orders or bankers drafts – so there’s no chance whatsoever that I can discount the costs from what I owe. Yup, yet again I’d be liable for the costs – and also if (as has happened to me before) HMRC ‘mislaid’ a payment.

So even though it’s the only option I didn’t want – and that’ll get complicated for other reasons – I’m going to end up paying that £200 over the tax year, rather than knowing I can start from scratch again.

In short, HMRC are useless cunts. But I suppose that won’t change any time soon.  Still, come the revolution…


Last week I got a letter from the taxman (also known as HMRC) regarding taxyear 2012/13. Supposedly I’ve not paid enough tax in that year.

Now that’s pretty impressive. It’s just about the only year in living memory where I was

  1. Employed – throughout that year – by one company
  2. On PAYE throughout that year
  3. Didn’t change any tax-relevant details
  4. Didn’t have to fill in a tax-return of my own
  5. Was purely reliant on my employer and HMRC to get my tax correct.

And still it’s fucked up.

Of course, I’m going to have to pay it. I don’t mind paying when it’s part of my earnings (well I do, but that’s a different thing) or if I’d made a mistake in estimating what tax I should be paying. I can live with that – it’s a pain in the tits, but I can understand what I have to pay, and why.

What I really do fucking mind is that I have to pay that tax when it’s been underpaid through no damn fault of my own. My employer of the time won’t be penalised, and won’t have to pay for their cock-up. HMRC won’t pay on it for their cock-up.

For that tax-year, it is ONLY possible that the error can have come from my employer, or HMRC themselves. (Who would only have dealt with my employer – not me directly) But it’s me that’s going to have to pay an extra £50 per month to rectify it next tax year.


[Addendum : Because of the bankruptcy, from August of that tax year I shouldn’t have paid tax anyway, it should all go to the Official Receiver until August 2013. So that’s going to be a whole different lump of fun/hassle. I’m waiting for them to sort out this first stage before I then totally confuse things]