Low Incomes Tax Reform Group calls for urgent action on diversion of tax refunds
|In light of reports of problems from taxpayers that are increasing in both number and seriousness, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) is calling on HMRC to stop accepting deeds of assignment at face value with immediate effect and also to revisit historic deeds in certain cases where questions are raised about their validity.|
|LITRG is hearing from increasing numbers of worried taxpayers, who are raising serious concerns about certain unscrupulous tax refund companies and their use of deeds of assignment.1
Running a tax refund business is usually legitimate and provides a useful service for those who choose to pay someone to deal with their refund claim, but some taxpayers are left out-of-pocket and concerned that they seem to have been the victim of sharp practice by unscrupulous tax refund companies.
Meredith McCammond, Technical Officer with LITRG, said:
“In light of the problems we are hearing from taxpayers, we call on HMRC to take a new step and stop accepting deeds of assignment from refund companies at face value with immediate effect, and to revisit historic deeds in cases where questions are raised about their validity.”
Problems reported to LITRG in the last 12 months include:
People targeted by tax refund companies on social media with online ads when their guard may be down
Meredith McCammond said:
“It is an extremely concerning state of affairs. It is entirely legitimate for taxpayers to use tax refund companies to claim refunds on their behalf, because not everyone wants to deal with claims themselves. But there are unfortunate consequences of getting caught up with an unscrupulous tax refund company.
“HMRC have no choice but to accept a valid deed of assignment, but it is incumbent on HMRC to check that a deed is in fact valid before they accept it. This includes making sure that it has been properly signed and understood by the taxpayer.3 The reports we have received from taxpayers suggest that HMRC’s processes are at times too relaxed as to what they are accepting as a ‘valid’ deed of assignment. There is seemingly no other pathway to resolution for taxpayers. In some cases, taxpayers believe they have been a victim of fraud but then have trouble gaining traction with HMRC or other authorities.
“HMRC need to urgently put in place a new step whereby deeds of assignment from tax refund companies are not accepted until HMRC contact the taxpayer directly and check that they are aware of the deed’s existence, that they fully understand what it means and confirm they wish it to be put in place. This would ensure that HMRC only accept those that are valid under their own guidance.
“We have been raising concerns about deeds of assignment for some time and, although HMRC recently announced they would launch a consultation in this area, there is clearly a need for some short-term urgent action from HMRC to protect taxpayers, until they find more permanent solutions. Adding this extra step to the process is an important safeguard which could force those unscrupulous tax refund companies to introduce more transparent processes.
“This safeguard will of course only help people going forward. We would also urge HMRC to put a clear protocol in place to deal with cases where someone challenges the validity of an existing deed, including (in cases of invalid deeds) repaying the taxpayer if necessary and taking action against the tax refund company.
“It is distressing that some people are losing their hard-earned money like this. But what is also concerning is that some people are as angry with HMRC for letting this happen as they are with the tax refund companies. This issue is damaging people’s trust in HMRC and the tax system and needs to be dealt with immediately.”