HM Revenue & Customs is facing outrage from tax campaigners and accountants as extra responsibility is placed on the shoulders of taxpayers to check their tax codes and calculations. Extra Statutory Concession A19 is a rule created by HMRC which allows tax which is due to not be collected in specified circumstances. Currently, if a taxpayer or a qualifying third party is deemed to have provided relevant information to HMRC but the tax office failed to implement the information, the tax due can be written off. According to the rule, a taxpayer has to reasonably believe that their tax affairs were in order. Consultation is underway by HMRC to change the ESCA19 rule, making taxpayers responsible for their own tax.
Robin Williamson, a tax expert for the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, believes that it is unreasonable to expect taxpayers to understand their tax codes and tax calculations, as many people don’t have the required knowledge of taxation. Ros Altmann, Director General of Saga, a financial services group which represents people aged over 50, said that HMRC is attempting to blame taxpayers for its own mistakes and calls the move “unacceptable”.
Although taxpayers can approach a low cost accountants for advice, if HMRC has received all relevant information, taxpayers should not be expected to check their own tax. Recent data that has been released by HMRC indicates that £54m in tax demands had been written off during the 18 months to March 2012, affecting 42,000 taxpayers.