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Help with tax problems
Table of contents
Many people find tax matters confusing, but there are ways of getting help. We have listed some of the most common ways of getting help below.
If you have a tax problem and you are an employee, you may be able to get help about a tax code or PAYE from your employer.
There are a number of websites that can help with tax problems:
- The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group website has useful information for people on a low income at www.litrg.org.uk
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is the government department responsible for tax. Its website contains a lot of useful information. Go to: www.hmrc.gov.uk
- The GOV.UK website also has tax information for individuals at www.gov.uk and for businesses at www.gov.uk
- TaxAid has useful information on how to resolve tax problems for UK taxpayers at www.taxaid.org.uk
- Tax Help for Older People (TOP) can help pensioners on a low income who are aged over 60. Go to www.taxvol.org.uk.
If the problem cannot be sorted out by talking to your employer, or looking on a website, the next step is to contact HMRC. Tax offices only deal with telephone and written enquiries and are not open to the public. If you need to see someone face-to-face, you will need to go to a Tax Enquiry Centre.
You can contact HMRC via a single number, the Taxes Helpline, on 0300 200 3300.
If you are newly self-employed, contact the Newly Self-Employed Helpline on 0300 200 3504, or if you need help with Self Assessment, contact the Self Assessment Helpline on 0300 200 3310.
When you contact the tax office, you must be ready to quote your national insurance number and your employer's tax reference number. If you don't know the tax reference number, your employer must give it to you if you ask for it. Or look on your payslip,P45 or P60.
Going to a Tax Enquiry Centre
You can speak to someone face-to-face at a Tax Enquiry Centre. Most Tax Enquiry Centres are accessible for disabled people and can provide induction loops, magnifiers to help you read the forms and crystal listening devices to help you if you are hard of hearing. If you need a sign language interpreter, or other interpretation services, these can be arranged.
You can find out where your nearest Tax Enquiry Centre is on the HM Revenue and Customs website at: www.hmrc.gov.uk.
To make an appointment to see an adviser at a Tax Enquiry Centre, phone one of the HM Revenue and Customs helplines. Which helpline depends on what your enquiry is about. For a list of helplines, go to the HM Revenue and Customs website at: www.hmrc.gov.uk.
If your local Tax Enquiry Centre has closed
HMRC has closed down some of its local Tax Enquiry Centres in the North East of England. The centres which have closed are: Alnwick, Bishop Auckland, Bridlington, Hexham, Darlington, Durham, Middlesbrough, Morpeth, Newcastle, Scarborough, Stockton, Sunderland and York.
All Enquiry Centres are to close at the end of June 2014.
If your local office has closed and you need extra help, HMRC or your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to put you in touch with a specialist HMRC service. This service will generally help people over the phone, but if you do need to see somebody face-to-face, HMRC may be able to offer you a home visit or arrange to meet you somewhere else that's convenient to you.
If your local Tax Enquiry Centre has closed, you can:
- contact your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau who can help sort out your problem or put you in touch with HMRC's specialist service if you need extra help
- contact HMRC on 0300 200 3300 or go to their website at www.hmrc.gov.uk
- If you have tried but can't get the problem resolved with HMRC, then you may qualify for help from a tax charity – TaxAid (www.taxaid.org.uk) or Tax Help for Older People (www.taxvol.org.uk ) who can give advice about tax if you're on a low income.
If your problem has still not been sorted out, you may wish to challenge it, or negotiate, with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) The procedure to follow and the correct office depend on the type of challenge or dispute.
Some of the main procedures are:
- appealing, for example, against a calculation of tax liability or a PAYE code A factsheet about appealing against a decision of HMRC is available on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk.
- seeking a waiver, because of HMRC delays
- negotiating tax debts. There is lots of useful information about dealing with tax debts on the Tax Aid website at: www.taxaid.org.uk.
- complaining about HMRC conduct. HMRC publishes a charter about what you can expect from them, and what they expect from you. You might find it helpful to look at the charter before you make a complaint. You can find the charter on the HMRC website at: www.hmrc.gov.uk.
When dealing with any query or negotiation, whether in writing, over the phone or in person, remember the following tips:
- prepare in advance
- make a note of the relevant facts
- collect all available evidence
- have a clear idea of what outcome you want
- make a record of who you speak to and what is said
- try to stay calm
- say thank you if your contact was helpful and mention any helpful advice you get in any letters you write
- be persistent
- ask about any appeal process.
For more information about how to challenge or negotiate with HMRC, you should see an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.
The Adjudicator's Office considers complaints of maladministration by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), for example:
- excessive delay
The Adjudicator's Office will not consider:
- legal disputes
- complaints that have already been investigated by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman - see below
- appeals against property valuations, including appeals against council tax bandings. These should be referred to Valuation Tribunals
For more details, see Council tax.
- matters relating to a criminal prosecution during the course of legal proceedings.
A complaint should not usually be referred to the Adjudicator's Office until you have given HMRC a chance to remedy matters. However, in urgent cases, the Adjudicator's Office may offer immediate help without you approaching HMRC first, for example, if there is a risk that any delay might cause irreparable damage. If you do contact the Adjudicator's Office directly, you will be guided through the necessary procedures.
The contact details of the Adjudicator's Office are:
286 Euston Road
Tel: 0300 057 1111 or 020 7667 1832
Fax: 0300 057 1212 or 020 7667 1830
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman may be able to help with complaints against HM Revenue and Customs if, for example, there has been:
- avoidable delay
- failure to give appropriate advice
- failure to follow proper procedures.
The Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints about government policy or about tax legislation.
If you want to complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, you must first contact your MP and ask for the matter to be referred.
For more details about the ombudsman, in England, see How to use an ombudsman in England, in Wales, see How to use an ombudsman in Wales, in Northern Ireland, see How to use an ombudsman in Northern Ireland or in Scotland, see How to use an ombudsman in Scotland.
If you can't get a satisfactory answer to your tax problem, a specialist tax charity may be able to help you. This applies if you are on a low income – about £16,000 a year or less. There are two main tax charities:
- Tax Help for Older People (TOP).
TaxAid runs a national telephone helpline service and face-to-face advice sessions in London and some major cities. They provide free and independent advice, assistance and advocacy to people who need help with tax or tax debt. They can help with problems about tax allowances, PAYE codes, tax arrears, self-employment, tax returns and HM Revenue and Customs administration and complaints.
You are encouraged to look at their website before contacting them. Their tax specialists can often advise how to resolve the problem over the phone. If the problem is complex, they may be able to offer you an appointment, but call or email them first. Their contact details are:
TaxHelp for Older People
TaxHelp for Older People (TOP) is a free confidential service providing tax advice for pensioners over 60 on low incomes who cannot afford to employ a professional tax adviser.
Appointments can be arranged at offices such as at Age UK, or at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Home visits can be arranged if you are disabled.
Their contact details are:
TaxHelp for Older People
Pineapple Business Park
If your income is too high to qualify for advice from a tax charity, you may need to consult a commercial firm of advisers, who will charge a fee. The following professional bodies will help you find a local specialist:
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales
321 Avebury Boulevard
Telephone 01908 248100
Fax: 01908 248088
Chartered Accountants Ireland
32-38 Linenhall Street