Help with tax problems
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 provide useful information about tax:
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is the government department responsible for tax. 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 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
- The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group website has useful information for people on a low income at www.litrg.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. Usually, you will need to do this by telephone.
You can contact HMRC on the Taxes Helpline for individuals and employees, including pensioners and people on benefits, on 0300 200 3300 (Textphone 0300 200 3319 for people who are deaf or hearing or speech impaired).
If you are newly self-employed, contact the Newly Self-Employed Helpline on 0300 200 3504 (Textphone 0845 915 3296).
If you need help with Self Assessment, contact the Self Assessment Helpline on 0300 200 3310 (Textphone 0300 200 3319 ).
For other HMRC helplines, see their website at http://search.hmrc.gov.uk.
When you contact HMRC, 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.
In some cases, you can contact HMRC using an online form. This may be more convenient than using a helpline when the lines are frequently busy. However, you can only do this for certain topics. For example, you can use an online form to:-
- report a change of name or address at www.hmrc.gov.uk
- tell HMRC your tax code is wrong at www.hmrc.gov.uk
- register as self-employed at www.gov.uk.
Set up a personal tax account with HMRC
You can check your tax information and manage your details with HMRC by setting up a personal tax account.
If you need extra help from HMRC with your tax
HMRC provides a special service for people who need extra help with their tax, tax credits or Child Benefit. It replaces some of the services that used to be provided by HMRC Enquiry Centres, which are closing down.
When you contact an HMRC helpline, the helpline staff will decide whether you need extra help and will put you in touch with the service which is best able to help you. In some cases, this could be by talking on the phone to a specialist adviser, who will take the time to try to resolve your query in one call. In other cases, where HMRC staff decide that a face-to-face meeting is most appropriate, they can arrange to meet you at a convenient place local to you or in your own home.
You can read more about this service on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk.
If you need extra help from HMRC with your tax, you can:
- phone HMRC on one of their helplines (see above), or
- contact your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau who can help sort out your problem or contact HMRC on your behalf.
If HMRC aren’t able to resolve the problem, then you may quality for help from a tax charity, Tax Aid or Tax Help for Older People, who can give advice about tax if you’re on a low income.
If you can't get a satisfactory answer to your tax problem and you are on a low income, a specialist tax charity may be able to help you. 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 for people on a low income. They define low income as around £20,000 per year or less. 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 should try to sort out the problem first with HMRC and 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. They define low income as less than £20,000 per year.
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
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 GOV.UK website at: www.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 GOV.UK website at: www.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 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.
The contact details of the Adjudicator's Office are:
The Adjudicator's Office
PO Box 10280
Tel: 0300 057 1111
Fax: 0300 057 1212
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.