Semi-retired owner Richard Eaton has never missed a tax deadline – until this year.
Richard, 65, has not had access to his Government Gateway account since early December and has been unable to access it to file his taxes.
This is despite 15 telephone calls to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the sending of several letters in an attempt to unblock his account.
With just hours to go until tonight’s self-assessment tax return deadline, he now fears he will face hefty late and payment penalties and be hit with high interest rates if the problem doesn’t resolve. is not resolved.
Anyone who fails to meet the January 31 deadline will automatically receive a £100 fine. After three months you will start to face additional daily fines of £10, up to a maximum of £900.
Cut-off: Those seeking help struggle to speak to anyone after HMRC’s decision to reduce its helpline service from December 11 until the end of January
Failing to file a return for an entire year could leave you facing a bill of £1,600. HMRC also charges interest of 7.75 per cent on late payments.
Richard says: “All I’m trying to do is do the right thing by paying my taxes: why can’t they help me? »
Taxpayers such as Richard face tough times ahead of tonight’s self-assessment tax return deadline, as a customer service collapse at HMRC leaves many unable to file and pay their taxes on time , Money Mail can reveal.
According to a study by wealth manager Handelsbanken, more than 475,000 self-employed workers are expected to miss the midnight deadline because they are struggling to finalize their tax returns. As of last week, nearly four million people had still not filed their tax returns.
Our mailbag is full of letters from more than 100 readers who have expressed their frustration at poor customer service from HMRC in the run-up to the self-assessment tax return deadline.
Many tell us they tried hard to pay their taxes, but were stymied by inefficiencies within the tax office, including year-long waits for responses to letters, a lack of knowledge of officials and long wait times on the phone.
These struggles paint a depressing picture of a department that should welcome taxpayers’ attempts to pay their taxes on time. In Richard’s case, the IRS’s incompetence caused him to lose a crucial remortgage offer.
The 65-year-old’s troubles began on November 28 when he clicked on a fraudulent link in an email from fraudsters posing as HMRC, asking him to update his details.
“Naively, I clicked on the link and entered my Government Gateway login information. I had just had contact from HMRC so I broke down.
However, very quickly I realized that it looked dodgy and logged into the real government gateway to reset my password. I thought it would end there.
But on December 2, when Richard tried to log into his account, he was unable to do so because HMRC had suspended him due to unusual activity.
In a hurry: Anyone who misses the deadline will automatically be fined £100. After three months you will start to face additional daily fines of £10, up to a maximum of £900.
During a series of calls, one manager told him he would have to wait six weeks for his account to be operational again, another said it would take eight weeks, while a third said that he could not set a deadline. above.
“My stress level was through the roof,” he says. “No one has been able to give me a clear answer or help me access my account. It’s hopeless.
“Some operators say they can’t help you, then hang up, so you have to redial and experience long wait times again. »
On December 15, out of “pure desperation,” Richard wrote a letter of complaint detailing the serious problems he was experiencing.
“Needless to say, I have yet to receive a response from HMRC.”
Richard has since missed the capital gains reporting deadline, December 31, and he and his wife lost a bid to remortgage his house.
“The best offer failed because I could not submit my tax returns for the last three years, including 2022-23,” he said.
“At our age, we’re not really inundated with mortgage offers. I have explained this to numerous customer service members through the helpline, but am repeatedly told that there is nothing they can do to reinstate my account until I am contacted by the support team. security.
After Money Mail intervened, HMRC said Richard would not receive any penalties for late filing and payment.
A spokesperson said no one identified as having been the subject of a fraud attack and whose online account has been suspended will have to pay penalties for filing their return or paying their taxes late.
Money Mail this month revealed the shocking scale of HMRC’s customer service breakdown.
We revealed how those seeking help are struggling to speak to anyone before the tax return deadline after HMRC’s surprising decision to cut service on its 11 helpline December to the end of January.
Fines: more than 475,000 self-employed workers expected to miss the midnight deadline
A reader from Edinburgh says she will be one of hundreds of thousands of people who have missed tonight’s deadline, despite filing their paper returns in October.
The freelance writer, who wished to remain anonymous, has not yet received a letter or notification informing her of the amount of taxes she must pay.
“I am very aware of the dire warnings associated with not paying on time,” she says. “I’m afraid, even if it’s not my fault, that I’ll be fined.
“I tried to phone but the HMRC phone line is a nightmare and won’t let you speak to anyone.” I wrote a letter but who knows when it will be answered.
A tax professional, who has run an accountancy business for 35 years, told Money Mail that in one recent case it took HMRC 13 months to send letters in response to paper tax returns.
Mark Collins, head of tax at Handelsbanken Wealth and Asset Management, says those who have a reasonable excuse for missing the deadline can avoid penalties, but there is a risk of a £100 fine even if they don’t. There is no tax to pay and penalties can quickly add up.
He said: “Self-assessment returns are clearly a challenge for a significant number of self-employed people, with many at risk of missing deadlines and others struggling to complete their returns.
Deadline: A customer service crisis at HM Revenue and Customs is preventing many workers from filing and paying their taxes on time.
Barbara Cox says her attempts to pay taxes failed at the first hurdle. The pensioner applied for a unique taxpayer reference number (UTR) in June last year to complete a self-assessment return. But she claims to have never received a response.
She says: “Since then, I have been constantly trying, at any time of the day, to call them. I was totally exasperated because no matter what time I called, no one answered the phone and the phone rang. I continued to try to contact them by phone for several months, but to no avail.
“I wrote to them explaining that I was trying to acquire a UTR in October and again in November, sending registered letters, but I never received a response from them.”
As a last resort, she turned to a friend with experience filing taxes who suggested she send a check by check for an estimate of the tax she believed she owed.
“Within two days, HMRC cashed my check. It’s a shame they couldn’t get back to me as quickly as they took my money and saved me the anxiety when I had tried so hard to do the right thing and pay my taxes .
Barbara has since received several reminders to file her taxes online and fears she could be fined again.
She said: “I find it absolutely appalling that such an organization could lack professionalism. I am now waiting to see if I will get an automatic fine, even if they have my check. HMRC is not fit for purpose, it’s a shame.
An HMRC spokesperson said: “Our online services and telephone lines are operating as normal, and claims are being submitted well in advance of the self-assessment deadline.
“Customers are successfully using our digital services to get the help they need because for many it is the quickest and easiest way, eliminating the need to wait on the phone.
“This frees up our expert advisors to help people with urgent and more complex questions, as well as helping the small number of people who cannot access our online services.
“Millions of people already sort their taxes online, and more than 80% of them are satisfied with their experience. »
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