Tax trials of the aged

Problems with draconian tax officials are not just reserved for football players and street traders. The tax office is checking up on people who are least likely to be able to cope with it - the elderly.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation says many old people are frightened of dealing with the Inland Revenue. "We could fill Wembley many times over with low-income pensioners being harassed by the Revenue," said John Andrews, chairman of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.

The introduction of self-assessment is one of the main problems: although it was never meant to apply to pensioners, thousands on low incomes receive the forms each year, leaving them frightened of the consequences.

The chartered institute has received many letters from distressed pensioners. "I become a nervous wreck trying to understand the self-assessment tax form," writes one from Brackley, Northamtonshire. "I do not pay tax as I have insufficient income. I've never paid tax since I retired. In fact I could go out to work and earn pounds 60 per week and still be a non-taxpayer. Still they send the form each year." His problems are not unique.

The Government is at last recognising that a problem exists. From next April people with income up to pounds 2,500 which is not taxed at source, but which is dealt with through the Pay As You Earn system, will no longer be asked fill in a tax return because of that income. "This change will cut down on red tape and bureaucracy," said Dawn Primarolo, the Paymaster General. "The Revenue is committed to improving all its procedures where necessary."

The Revenue estimates that more than 400,000 people will be taken out of self-assessment as a result of this initiative, including up to a quarter of those older people who receive a tax return. However, the chartered institute is critical of the Revenue's action. "Some weeks back we sent the Revenue examples of the poorest pensioners, those who are generally outside the payments system, asking for positive confirmation that they will not be sent tax returns next April. We still await a reply," said Mr Andrews.

The institute is critical of the Revenue's booklets and leaflets aimed at older people. It considers they lack coherence and appropriate coverage; are inconsistent; out of date, and unsuitable for those with disabilities. "What is needed is a single accurate publication in plain English that covers all the matters that frequently concern the elderly," said Mr Andrews.

While local tax offices will give guidance to any taxpayer - either in person or via a local rate helpline - these are not always accessible to the elderly. Even when they are, there is evidence that they are found to be both intimidating and also of limited use.

There are calls for a publicly-supported tax volunteer scheme similar to those in the United States and Canada to help elderly taxpayers. The Revenue is understood to be discussing this possibility around Whitehall. However, it has yet to announce any initiatives.

WHERE TO GO FOR HELP

Local Tax Office Helplines are listed in telephone directories under Inland Revenue - Tax Enquiry Centres.

The charity TaxAid will help those on low incomes who cannot afford to pay an accountant. It can be contacted on 0171-624-3768, Monday to Thursday from 10am until noon.

Citizens' Advice Bureaux across the country can offer a broad cross- section of help.

The charity Age Concern publishes a range of fact sheets on income tax. For copies contact its information line on 0800 009966.

Help the Aged charges pounds 75 for a qualified tax specialist to complete and return the forms to the Inland Revenue. To receive a free self assessment tax pack call 0800-056 5535.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Payroll & Accounts Assistant

£20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week