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Millions face paying back HMRC after tax errors

Millions of people face having to hand money back to HMRC after errors meant they ended up paying the wrong amount of tax on their earnings.

It is estimated that 5.5 million people have paid the wrong amount of tax, with 3.5 million thought to have paid too little and the remaining 2 million having overpaid, meaning they can claim a refund.

The mistakes can occur due to a change in personal circumstances, such as if a person moves jobs or starts receiving benefits.

Millions of people face having to repay money to HMRC because of errors calculating their tax. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

According to tax officials cited by the Daily Telegraph, the average size of the error is about £300.

This is despite the introduction of a new £270 million 'Real Time Payments' scheme designed to make the tax system more accurate by letting people update their information on a weekly or monthly basis.

Read: MPs warn of taxman plan's 'fraud and error' potential

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HMRC taking a 'computer says yes' approach to tax

Mike Down, of accountancy firm Baker Tilly, said the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) should be checking tax returns to see whether individuals had already explained their circumstances.

He told the Daily Telegraph that The Revenue is "adopting a computer says yes approach, rather than simply checking the tax returns".

One case involved an elderly widow whose effective tax rate was low because she was giving more than half her income to charity.

More: HMRC accused of 'bully boy tactics'

HMRC forms a 'trial to help people with mistakes'

The HM Revenue & Customs who have been accused of "bully boy tactics" for sending high earners letters ask why they are not paying more tax, have responded to the claims.

An HMRC spokeswoman said:

We are issuing 1,000 letters to taxpayers with an income of £150,000 or more who have an effective rate of tax of 22% or less.

If a taxpayer is content that their return is accurate then they do not need to do anything.

This is part of a trial to help individuals identify any mistakes they may have made on their Self Assessment return.

Anyone who needs help is welcome to get in touch with us.

– HMRC

Read more: HMRC accused of 'bully boy tactics' over tax letters

HMRC accused of 'bully boy tactics' over tax letters

The HM Revenue & Customs has been accused of "bully boy tactics" for sending high earners letters asking why they are not paying more tax.

Around 1,000 letters have been issued to people who have an income of more than £150,000 but are paying less than 22% in tax.

HM Revenue & Customs forms were sent to everyone earning over £150,000. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

The letters state: "We can see from your Self Assessment tax return... that your effective rate of tax is lower than the average for people in your income bracket.

"There may be reasons why your effective rate of tax is correct. But it could mean that there is something wrong with your self assessment."

Treasury: It is important people pay tax owed on time

The Treasury said it was "important that people pay the tax they owe on time" after plans to allow the taxman to seize money from personal bank accounts were criticised by a group of MPs.

A spokesman said: "Although the vast majority do this, there is still a minority that chooses not to pay, despite being able.

The Treasury building on Horseguards Road in central London.
The Treasury said it was 'important that people pay the tax they owe on time'. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

"The proposed powers will give HMRC [HM Revenue and Customs] another tool to collect tax debt owed.

"The current consultation includes a range of safeguards to ensure the power is tightly targeted."

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MPs warn of taxman plan's 'fraud and error' potential

The Commons Treasury Select Committee has highlighted the potential for fraud and error if the taxman was given direct access to millions of accounts.

"This policy is highly dependent on HMRC's [HM Revenue and Customs'] ability accurately to determine which taxpayers owe money and what amounts they owe, an ability not always demonstrated in the past," the MPs said.

Money.
Plans to allow the taxman to seize money directly from personal bank accounts have been criticised by an influential group of MPs. Credit: PA Wire

"Incorrectly collecting money will result in serious detriment to taxpayers," the report continued.

"The Government must consider safeguards, in addition to those set out in the consultation document, to ensure that HMRC cannot act erroneously with impunity.

Taxman plans 'wholly unacceptable' without oversight

An influential group of MPs said giving the taxman the power to recover money directly from personal bank accounts without some form of prior independent oversight would be "wholly unacceptable".

The Commons Treasury Committee also dismissed George Osborne's argument that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) already had similar powers to collect child maintenance.

The parallel is not exact: in those cases, DWP is acting as an intermediary between two individuals.

HMRC [HM Revenue and Customs] would be acting not as an intermediary between two individuals but rather in pursuit of its own objective of bringing in revenue for the Exchequer.

Read: 'Taxman's raid' of personal bank accounts criticised by MPs

'Taxman's raid' of personal bank accounts criticised

Plans to allow the taxman to seize money directly from personal bank accounts have been criticised by an influential group of MPs.

The Commons Treasury Committee has expressed "considerable concern" over the Chancellor's debt collection proposals and called for further scrutiny.

General view of pound coins on HM Revenue & Customs forms.
General view of pound coins on HM Revenue & Customs forms. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

In their report on this year's Budget, the MPs suggested the change could amount to a back-door reintroduction of the discredited Crown Preference rule - which gave HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) priority access to assets when companies went bust.

Starbucks move 'ringing endorsement' of London

Starbucks' decision to move its European headquarters from the Netherlands to London is a "ringing endorsement" of the capital's business environment, according to the chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Colin Stanbridge.

This very positive move by Starbucks greatly reinforces London as a key global centre for business and a highly desirable location for firms to base their operations.

Creating the right environment for businesses to flourish is essential to London competing at an international level and we are delighted that Starbucks has given the capital a ringing endorsement.

Read: Starbucks 'will pay more tax in UK' after moving HQ

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