Mrs Angry and I have been in a dispute with Her Majesties’ Revenue and Customs for over three years, about tax credits we received between 2007 and 2012.
We received a letter in the post saying that HMRC had been looking through our back files and wanted over £5,500 from us. We looked at this quite sceptically and wondered where they would get those figures from. So we wrote back to them asking exactly that. We got back a letter saying that we owed £2,000 from one year £800 from a second and £3,000 from the third.
We wrote back to them and said “sorry, perhaps we didn’t explain properly in our last letter, we don’t want a breakdown of how much we owe, we want to know how you came to these figures.” We received back the same breakdown.
As we were getting nowhere with the HMRC we contacted our MP to see if he could do any better. After lots of correspondence between him and HMRC, he got absolutely nowhere and recommended that we contact The Adjudicator’s Office, whose job it is to act as an intermediary between the public and the tax authorities when there is a dispute.
I have to say right here and now that The Adjudicator’s Office have been incredibly supportive and wrote to HMRC to advise that they were looking into the matter. So impressed were HMRC with this news that they set debt collectors upon us despite the fact that we kept them informed at all stages and they ignored our letters.
Now the debt collectors were a piece of work. They wrote to use telling us that we could lose our house, get ourselves bankrupted, get a lien put on our house, get blocked from getting credit, etc., etc. This is really scary stuff if you are inclined to believe it. Luckily we are made of sterner stuff and emailed them at the address on their correspondence to tell them so. Two weeks later we get another letter saying that it’s no good ignoring us, because we are not going away. We emailed again, and again we received a threatening letter from them, telling us that if we were not going to reply to their correspondence they would take proceedings. After each threat we were told to phone them on a premium rate telephone number and even worse suggested that we clear the debt with a credit card something that goes directly against Trading Standards guidelines.
Now we learnt a long time ago, when dealing with HMRC to not trust the phone. We have tried this and found that The Adjudicator’s Office, when they get a transcript of our telephone conversations with HMRC, find that HMRC cannot find the recordings of the interesting phone calls and furthermore, cannot even get our names right. So we wrote back to the debt collectors by recorded delivery. That got their attention.
Finally, after pointing out to them on every occasion that there is no debt as we are currently in discussion with HMRC and The Adjudicator’s office, and after we have reported them to Trading Standards for not following the code of practice, the debt was returned to HMRC. First victory to us.
Following this, HMRC write to The Adjudicator’s Office, not to explain why they want this money, but to write the debt off. In the letter from The Adjudicator’s Office they show that HMRC have already clawed back over £1300 and are offering to write off the remaining balance. A victory, you think? Not a bar of it. Think about it.
We are taxpayers of the UK. We still have not received an answer to our questions. If we owe this money to the government, then as responsible taxpayers we should pay this, but we want proof that we owe it. If we don’t owe this money we want the £1300 we’ve already paid to be returned. Our MP thinks so too and has written to The Adjudicator’s Office to make this point. He also points out that if the debt is written off, then we will have a black mark on our record as an unrecoverable debt for the rest of our lives. Finally, what happens to the debt collectors? If they purchased the debt from HMRC they can sell on the debt if they wish to and we can be chased by other debt collectors. HMRC refuse to inform us whether the debt was sold or they acted as HMRC’s agent. After all they cannot be trusted after selling student loans to debt collectors at 18p in the pound. Again, we are left in limbo by an organisation that refuses to answer any questions.
What worries me most is that HMRC want the power to plunder business and personal bank accounts to claw back tax, but with no oversight from any court. Would you trust them to do that diligently? No, nor me. With the amount of errors this branch of government makes, I wouldn’t trust them to make a coffee without screwing it up. Furthermore, it will be “you’re guilty, prove we’re not”, this despite the fact that Legal Aid is being scaled back all the time and most people’s access to law is becoming more and more a distant memory.