Tax in the UK is collected by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). A governmental department, it is responsible for the collection of taxes, which are used to fund public services and parts of the UK’s welfare system, including Child Tax Credits. In addition to offering help with tax calculations, payments, rebates and tax returns, the organisation provides help to both employers and employees who need assistance with tax issues. HMRC also oversees employers’ compliance with both the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage. It has the power to take employers who are found to be paying employees a rate below either of the standard rates to court.
Whether we like it or not, tax is a part of our daily lives and plays an important part in the UK’s economy. It has been collected for hundreds of years, with the earliest recorded account in Britain traced back to the invasion by the Roman Empire. However, HMRC, as we know it today, has only been in existence since 2005. Prior to that, tax was dealt with by the Inland Revenue. This was merged with HM Customs and Excise, which was responsible for the collection of customs taxes, excise duties and other indirect taxes.
Today, HMRC is responsible for collecting both direct and indirect taxes from the general public and corporations. Direct taxes include capital gains tax, inheritance tax and gift tax, while indirect taxes are those charged for goods and services, such as sales tax and VAT. HMRC also enforces certain environmental taxes, such as landfill tax and air passenger duty. However, the agency is much more than a receptacle for people’s earnings. It is also responsible for the distribution of some of those monies, such as the Child’s Trust Fund and tax credits. In addition, HMRC is the government’s watchdog for money-laundering regulations, which are levied at organisations that transmit or convert money, including banks.
What they offer – Services
If it’s anything tax-related, HMRC should be your first port of call. For most people, it’s an online portal through which you can access your personal or business tax account, submit online tax returns, pay corporation tax, and seek advice on issues such as PAYE for employers and VAT. If you wish to contact HMRC customer services, call 0871 244 7269.
What many people are unaware of is that HMRC is also given the same powers as a law-enforcement agency. It has its own team of criminal investigators, which tackle Serious Organised Fiscal Crime offences such as smuggling taxable goods, including tobacco and alcohol. HMRC also has the power to investigate corporations and businesses it believes are not acting in accordance with UK tax laws and, if necessary, prosecute them through the Crown Prosecution Service. Individuals who avoid or fail to pay tax can also be prosecuted by the HMRC. It can arrest, search and detain anyone under suspicion and the power to enter premises where they believe unlawful fiscal activity to be taking place.
Challenging a Tax Decision
If you feel a decision made by the HMRC is in error or unlawful, you have the right to appeal against it. Typically, appeals are made against decisions regarding issues such as Self-Assessment bills, tax relief and penalties. However, in certain circumstances you can even appeal against a request for information or the decision to investigate your business records. Usually, challenges are launched through an accountant. If you don’t have or need an accountant, you can challenge the decision yourself, as long as you include your name, tax reference number, an explanation of your appeal, facts and figures that support your case and your signature on the appeal letter. Should you wish to challenge the HMRC’s review of your situation, the next step is to present your case to a review tribunal.
Where are they?
The HMRC’s headquarters are in London. However, the organisation is working towards opening 13 regional offices. To contact HMRC customer services, call 0871 244 7269. There are also numbers for specific helpline services, such as for National Insurance issues and problems with PAYE. Lines are open between 8am and 8pm on weekdays and between 8 am and 4 pm on Saturdays.
Complaints to HMRC can be made by post, telephone or online. To lodge a complaint online, you’ll need a Government Gateway account. Alternatively, you can appoint someone else to complain on your behalf, although they’ll need to have their identity confirmed by HMRC. Should you disagree with the outcome of your complaint, you can request that it is investigated by another customer service adviser. In the event that you’re still unhappy with the reviewed decision, the next step is to raise the issue through the Adjudicator’s Office. In extreme circumstances, customers are advised to speak with their MP or speak to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
When you use governmental services online, you are submitting sensitive and personal information. The government will issue you with a Unique Tax Reference (UTR) code and a password for your account. If you want to change your password, ensure that it’s a strong one, by selecting random letters and numbers. However, be sure that it’s memorable.