MPs tell taxman to stop sending threatening letters

So tax doesn't have to be taxing eh Moira? I'm not so sure about that. I'm pretty certain that having to give up days of our spare time to complete a tax return, spend hours on the phone to query blatant mistakes, and be expected to fork out thousands of pounds at the end of the process is going to count as taxing in anyone's book. And to add insult to injury if you make any mistakes or encounter any delays there's a good chance you will receive a horrifying threat in the post from HMRC.

These letters threaten to auction off your property to pay your bill. Now they have been found to be wholly inappropriate and possibly illegal, and MPS have said they have to stop.

The threats
The letters are sent to people who complete self-assessment tax returns. They show up if you ignore a tax demand. The letter demands you pay the thousands of pounds that are owed within weeks, and threatens that anyone ignoring the demand will have their property confiscated and auctioned off to pay the bill.

They are designed to scare, and rub in how the auction will be public and very embarrassing. They make it sound like they'll hold the auction on your drive and print out flyers for your neighbours.They also highlight the dismal sums they'll accept for your property - which may be enough to drive the most desperate to Cash Converters.

In true HMRC style these letters are not designed to be helpful. There's no number to call to discuss things and get them sorted out, there's no help offered or any mention of a right to appeal - just a horrifying threat.

Now MPs have demanded that HMRC stops sending the letters, after they were deemed 'completely inappropriate'. Labour MP George Mudie questioned whether the letters were even legal when they were sent to people who weren't recalcitrant tax dodgers.

Widespread failings
This was part of the report we covered this weekend which highlighted failings all round at HMRC. However, this failing was particularly terrible, given the effect these demanding letters would have on vulnerable people.

The report said: "These letters appear to have been widely used without sufficient thought to whom they were sent to, even being sent to people who did not actually owe money. Such language is appropriate only where there is strong evidence of persistent and deliberate non-payment.This was one of the most disturbing things uncovered in our inquiry. They were sending these out to taxpayers, seemingly on a random basis, and telling them to pay up within weeks."

We await to see the response from HMRC.

This of course could take a while, especially as they've run out of paper.
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