Pensioner hit with tax bill for billions

Emma Woollacott
Tax return form 2014
Tax return form 2014

A Derbyshire pensioner has been stunned to receive an unexpected bill from the taxman - for more than £4.7 billion.

Doug Yeomans, 78, opened a letter from HMRC last week and was astonished to discover a bill for £4,742,354,255 in unpaid income tax. HMRC said it planned to take the money in five monthly instalments of £950 million each.

The former Grenadier Guardsman, who retired from a job as a maintenance man five years ago, now lives on the state pension, topped up with a private pension.

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In the 1950s, he served in the British Army with the Grenadier Guards. He later worked in the construction industry, helping to build the M1 motorway, East Midlands Airport and Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.

"I opened the letter and saw the amount and thought to myself, 'I'd better start cutting down on the food bill then'," he told the Derby Telegraph.

"They must think I'm a footballer or something, but I don't even think that Russian bloke who owns Chelsea could afford that amount."

When Mr Yeomans phoned HMRC, he had some difficulty getting through to the right department. "It seems it's easier to get an audience with the Pope than speak to the right person at Revenue and Customs," he says.

"It's laughable really, comical in fact, but I have recovered a lot of bills and demands from them over the past few months so it does worry me sometimes. What am I going to do about the tax bill now? Nothing except try and get through to the right person at Revenue and Customs and try and get them to sort it out."

HMRC has apologised for the mistake, and says it's working to put things right.

While Mr Yeomans' £4.7 billion bill is an extreme case, HMRC does often get things wrong. Last summer, it admitted that it had taken the wrong amount of tax from five and a half million people in 2013-14, and warned that many people should expect an extra bill.

However, when those bills were sent out, it was discovered that many of these, too, were wrong. The errors are particularly embarassing given that HMRC's recently-introduced Real Time Information, which cost £270 million system, was supposed to avoid this sort of problem.

If you think that HMRC has got your tax bill wrong, you can appeal, and may be able to defer payment while your case is considered: there's more information here.

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