'Sloppy' Revenue deletes tax records

The Inland Revenue faced calls for an inquiry into its "sloppy" procedures yesterday after it emerged that it had accidentally deleted the tax records of potentially thousands of people.

The Inland Revenue faced calls for an inquiry into its "sloppy" procedures yesterday after it emerged that it had accidentally deleted the tax records of potentially thousands of people.

The Revenue has admitted that a technical glitch led to Pay As You Earn files dating back to 2001 being deleted from its systems. As a result, thousands of people may have paid too much, or too little, in tax.

The taxpayers affected are people who left their jobs up to three years ago and did not start working again or begin drawing a pension. This could include women who stopped work after having children, people sent to prison, students who returned to university after temporary jobs, and people who died.

"Before deleting a record we would have initiated contact with the taxpayer if we believed there were any outstanding matters requiring attention - for example, overpayments or underpayments," a spokesman for the Revenue said. "It makes good sense to regularly cleanse our databases of redundant records - if we didn't do this the systems would become overloaded. But some cases have been deleted without the final review we normally give."

The Revenue said that there was only a "narrow range" of people affected, but admits that it does not know how many.

Richard Bacon, a Conservative MP, believes hundreds of thousands of people have had their tax records trashed. He has called the Revenue sloppy and has demanded an official investigation into the debacle.

But the spokesman for the Revenue said that the error was a one-off glitch that would not happen again, and it was now in the process of recovering the information that had been deleted. Records from the 2003/04 tax year hadbeen recovered, and the Revenue said that it was confident it would restore all the lost data.

It also insisted that it would not be asking individuals for more money if they were found to have underpaid their tax bill. The spokesman said: "There is no question of anyone being asked to pay more tax as a result of the deletions."

Anyone who thinks they may have paid too much tax has been asked to contact the Revenue, which will recalculate thebill.

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