We’re facing penalties for missing your tax deadline today… because HMRC won’t answer the phone!
Semi-retired owner Richard Eaton has never missed a tax deadline — until this year.
Richard, 65, has had his account on the government portal closed since the start of December and has been unable to access his tax file.
This is despite making 15 phone calls to HMRC and sending multiple letters in an attempt to unfreeze his account.
With just hours to go before tonight’s self-assessment tax return deadline, he now fears he will have to pay huge late filing and payment penalties and will be hit with high interest rates if the issue remains unresolved.
Anyone who misses the January 31 deadline will automatically receive a £100 fine. After three months, you will start incurring additional daily fines of £10, up to a maximum of £900.
Cut: Those seeking help are finding it difficult to speak to anyone following HMRC’s decision to reduce the service on its helpline from 11 December until the end of January
Failure to file for a full year could result in you facing a bill of £1,600. HMRC also charges 7.75 per cent interest on late payments.
“All I’m trying to do is the right thing by paying my taxes – why can’t they help me?” says Richard.
Taxpayers like Richard face tough hours before the self-assessment tax return deadline tonight, as a breakdown in customer service at HMRC prevents many from filing and paying their taxes on time, Money Mail can reveal.
More than 475,000 self-employed people are expected to miss a midnight deadline as they struggle to finish their tax returns, according to research by wealth management firm Handelsbanken. Last week, nearly four million people had not yet filed their tax returns.
Our mailbag has been filled with letters from over 100 readers expressing their frustration at HMRC’s poor customer service in the run-up to the self-assessment tax return deadline.
Many tell us they have gone to great lengths to pay their taxes but have been prevented from doing so by inefficiency within the tax office, including waiting up to a year for letters to be answered, a lack of knowledge among officials and long phone wait times.
These struggles paint a frustrating picture for an administration that should welcome taxpayers’ attempts to pay their taxes on time. In Richard’s case, the tax collector’s incompetence led to the loss of an important remortgage bid.
The 65-year-old’s problems began on November 28 when he clicked on a fraudulent link in an email from scammers impersonating HMRC, asking him to update his contact details.
“Naively, I clicked on the link and entered my login details for the government portal. I had just received a call from HMRC, so I loved that.
However, I quickly realized it looked dodgy and logged into the original government portal 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 because HMRC suspended him for unusual activity.
Pressed: Anyone who misses the deadline will automatically receive a £100 fine. After three months, you will start incurring additional daily fines of £10, up to a maximum of £900.
During a series of calls, one administrator told him he would have to wait six weeks for his account to be back up, another claimed the wait would take eight weeks, while a third said they couldn’t put a time frame on it.
“My stress levels were through the roof,” he says. “No one can give me a clear answer or help me access my account. It’s hopeless.
“Some operators say they can’t help and then hang up so you have to call back and face long wait times again.”
On December 15, out of “sheer 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 December 31 capital gains tax filing deadline, and he and his wife lost out on the bid to remortgage his home.
“The best deal ever fell through because I was unable to file my tax returns for the last three years, including 2022-23,” he says.
‘In this day and age, we are not exposed to mortgage offers. I explained this to several customer service staff via the helpline but was repeatedly told that there was nothing they could do to recover my account until the security team contacted me.’
After Money Mail intervened, HMRC said Richard would not receive any fines for late filing and payment.
A company spokesperson says that anyone identified as having been the target of a fraudulent attack and having their online account suspended will not be charged penalties for filing their tax returns or paying taxes late.
This month Money Mail revealed the shocking extent of the collapse in customer service at HMRC.
We have revealed how those seeking help are finding it difficult to speak to anyone before the tax return deadline following the surprise decision by HMRC to reduce the service on its helpline from 11 December until the end of January.
Fines: More than 475,000 freelancers are expected to miss the midnight deadline
An Edinburgh reader says she will be among hundreds of thousands who will miss tonight’s deadline, despite submitting her paper returns in October.
The freelance writer, who asked to remain anonymous, has not yet received a letter or notice informing her of the amount of tax she owes.
“I’m very aware of the stern warnings about not paying on time,” she says. “I’m afraid that even though it’s not my fault, I will be fined.
“I’ve tried phoning but the HMRC phone line is a nightmare and won’t let you navigate to speak to anyone. I’ve written a message but who knows when it might be answered.”
The tax expert, who ran an accountancy firm for 35 years, tells 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 with a plausible excuse for missing the deadline may avoid penalties, but there is a risk of a £100 fine even if there is no tax to pay and penalties can escalate quickly.
“It is clear that self-assessment returns are a challenge for large numbers of self-employed people, with many at risk of missing the deadline and others struggling to complete returns,” he says.
DEADLINE: Collapse of customer service at HM Revenue & Customs prevents 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 (UTR) number in June last year to complete the self-assessment return. But she says she has not received any response.
“Since then, I have constantly tried, at all times of the day, to contact them,” she says. I was absolutely irritated because anytime I called, no one ever answered the phone and it just ringed. I kept trying to contact them by phone for several months, but to no avail.
“I wrote to them explaining that I was trying to get a UTR in October and again in November, and sent registered messages, but never heard back from them.”
As a last resort, she turned to a friend with experience with tax returns and suggested that she send an estimate of the tax she believed she owed by check.
“Within two days, HMRC deposited my check. It’s a shame they couldn’t get back to me as quickly as they took my money and saved me the worry, when I was trying so hard to do the right thing and pay my taxes.
Barbara has since received several reminders to file a tax return online and fears she will still receive a fine.
“I find it absolutely appalling that such an organization could be so unprofessional,” she says. “I’m now waiting to see if I’ll get an automatic fine, even though they got my check. HMRC are not fit for purpose, it’s a disgrace.” Shame.
An HMRC spokesperson says: “Our online services and phone lines are operating as usual, with files being submitted well in advance of the self-assessment deadline.”
“Customers are successfully using our digital services to get the help they need because this is the quickest and easiest way for most people, saving people from waiting on the phone.
“This frees up our expert advisors to help people with urgent and more complex queries as well as helping the small number who are unable to access our online services.
“Millions of people are already sorting their taxes online, and more than 80 percent are satisfied with their experience.”
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(Signs for translation) Daily mail