Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taxman says "pay up or else" to its 'customers'...

I've been reading an article in Taxation magazine about a new style of letter being sent out by HMRC. The article is titled: 'Just pay’ demands omit contact details. I too would have assumed this was an oversight but Taxation reports that HMRC have confirmed that the
"Lack of address and phone no. is deliberate."
I am afraid this reveals that (whoever authorised this within) HMRC has a complete lack of awareness and understanding of real life.

You can't blame HMRC for wanting to collect the monies that are due to them. It's absolutely right that they should write seeking immediate payment of overdue sums. And that their letters point out the consequences of a continuing failure to pay.

Taxation reports that:

While the ['just pay'] letters shows the company’s PAYE reference number, there is no HMRC office address included. Instead, space is used to say ‘No contact required. Please pay on receipt.’ The telephone number is given as 000 000 000.

HMRC have apparently explained that the reason for this deliberate exlcusion of a phone number or office address on what they call 'just pay' letters is that:

‘they are used on low-value, high-volume debts where the use of people-resources to chase would not be efficient’.

A department spokesman is also reported to have explained that:

‘Where a debtor has been repeatedly advised of their liability, through correspondence with contact details, but has not taken steps to contact us to resolve the issue, it is not unreasonable for us to assume that they have no need of contact and to ask them to “just pay” their debt,’


In the case reported the tax wasn't due, there had been a mistake by HMRC. It's just as likely that the taxpayer hasn't opened previous correspondence or has put it to one side and forgotten to deal with it. Many people do not give their tax affairs the priority perhaps they should. Some taxpayers are more focused on generating profits from their business and put off dealing with papers from the taxman. Sometimes they simply forget despite good intentions.

When the taxman pursues outstanding monies it should ALWAYS make it as easy as possible for its CUSTOMERS to pay. It does that fine. HMRC must also make it as easy as possible for taxpayers to SEEK CLARIFICATION or to QUERY the amounts being claimed. A failure to recognise the need for this to be made EASY to do is poor CUSTOMER service. And, as we know HMRC does like to refer to taxpayers as 'customers'...

I'm sorry some people abuse such enquiry facilities. This is no reason though to deny all taxpayers the facility to easily check the veracity of demand notices. Especially when, as in the case of 'just pay' letters, these threaten legal action, including the seizure and sale of goods or bankruptcy, if payment is not made.


  1. Well done Mark for pointing out this unreasonable behaviour on behalf of HMRC. Another example is on the HMRC news site today:

    8 weeks to registered as self-employed!
    Are they trying to ENCOURAGE the black economy?

  2. Couldn't agree more - I had to waste an hour or more tracking down the right office and then the correct person to speak to when in fact the client owed nothing.