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Her Majesty’s Revenue & (Lack of) Customs


HMRC are playing hardball with the wrong people

Throughout recent years, HMRC have been at the forefront of numerous tabloid scandals, making the headlines as the culprits, the cause, and often the perpetrators of many bad decisions, blunders and wrongdoings, the taxman commonly being on the receiving end of a great deal of public turmoil. Recently however, Hector has taken a very strange turn, threatening to empty the homes of honest taxpayers. Be careful, he may just try to take your dog…

The former Inland Revenue is hardly ever perceived as man’s best friend, and following recent outrage concerning lack of service and severe financial inaccuracies, we the people are hardly blind to the on-going incompetence the tax office is so often accused of.

Only last month it was released that over £33 million was being spent the UK public in simply attempting to contact the taxman. With internal HMRC data finding that 57% of complaints against the office are legitimate and upheld, the hopes for a seamless and honest tax system seem far from reachable, with examples of the misguided nature of HMRC being too numerous to mention.

Recently however, in a bizarre turn of events, HMRC seem to be directing their efforts in totally the wrong areas, sending threatening, insulting and offensive letters in an outdated, aggressive and a practically medieval approach to tax collection.

The image below shows a letter from HMRC sent to a taxpayer (who happens to be an ex-Revenue inspector) 2 weeks ago.

This individual paid their tax of £27,418.80 on time, with HMRC’s demand relating to an application to reduce a payment on the account during the previous year, which subsequently led to an interest charge.

This aggressive letter was the first notification of liability and making threats such as, “We could visit your home to view your possessions and arrange for them to be sold at public auction” give an example of the complete imprecisions of the tax office. Before the 15th Feb, the recipient remained oblivious to the sum that was due to be paid and the reason for the charge before receiving this notification (so much for the ‘increase in communication’ from the dear old taxman as we were promised).

The letter fails to give a clear date to contact and settle charges by, but instead includes surprising threats stating that the case is of “high priority”, and they want to be paid “Now”.  “We will take further action to enforce payment” is the somewhat chilling end to this ill-mannered letter, showing a darker side to the Revenue in a time when tax avoidance is so commonly publicised.

Deputy head Mike Skelton has certainly showed the true colours of HMRC, overseeing bullish letter campaigns to tax paying individuals, allowing renown tax ‘dodgers’ such as Starbucks and Google to keep their heads under the parapet and be left unpunished.

The Revenue published a list of small businesses and individuals who were alleged tax avoiders in the papers last week, but unsurprisingly left the larger corporations out, despite the fact that some of them owe more money to the tax office than most others put together.

Whether they are spoon feeding us tax legislation, encouraging us to find our inner peace, or literally threatening us into ‘paying up’, HMRC are heading down a strange route. If they really want society to increase correspondence with them, then they are going the wrong way about it. It remains quite hard to image that people will be rushing to their mobile phones to contact the taxman about £5 undeclared pay when they employ such an unapproachable style to tax collection, not to mention £33 million in phone bills.

By Troy Stevens

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8 thoughts on “Her Majesty’s Revenue & (Lack of) Customs”

  1. Scott

    Amazon, Starbucks, etc bully HMRC, thus getting away with tax avoidance, thus in turn HMRC bullies the little guy. Time to fight back.

  2. AlexB

    How would you suggest they do go about collecting money owed to them, from individuals who in some cases have no intention to pay?
    HMRC are a very easy (and popular) target for criticism without any suggestions or helpful comments. And as for accusations of bullying the ‘little guy’, HMRCS is made up several thousand ‘little guys’ themselves just trying to make a living and paying the tax and NI they owe.

  3. suzanne donnellan

    i tried to ask for a payment plan to pay back £2793 the answer was no and the debt was passed to a debt collection agency without even a conversation just waiting now for a bigger bill happy christmas

  4. Tom

    I have just received a letter dated 20th February 2014 demanding that I settle my tax bill which has now accrued interest. I paid the bill in full on the 30th of January, 3 weeks previously. It is signed from yours truly, Mike Skelton. What a tool.

  5. Tom

    [quote name=”AlexB”]How would you suggest they do go about collecting money owed to them, from individuals who in some cases have no intention to pay?
    HMRC are a very easy (and popular) target for criticism without any suggestions or helpful comments. And as for accusations of bullying the ‘little guy’, HMRCS is made up several thousand ‘little guys’ themselves just trying to make a living and paying the tax and NI they owe.[/quote]

    by doing their job and ‘looking’ to see if it has indeed been paid already. just a thought.

  6. Anna C

    Tom, your experience is a mirror of my own. I filed my SA on 27th Jan, and it calculated I owed £2631.98. I duly paid that and it cleared my account on 29th Jan. Since then I received a red final demand for payment of over £3500 and told I was being charged interest for non payment of SA. I wrote a letter with copies of evidence (from HMRC SA website). No response to that but today another abrupt demand and yes -it was from Deputy Head Mike Skelton. Have tried to find the right number to ring but it isnt easy. suggestions on how to proceed welcome!!

  7. Lisa

    The bloke in the HMRC letter looks as if he has a FaceBook page! He calls himself Mick not Mike. Just search for Mick Skelton HMRC like I did.

  8. James

    Same here!

    Try the following email address for the wonderful and polite, Mike Skelton:

    mike.skelton@hmrc.gov.uk

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