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 It considers they lack coherence and appropriate coverage; are inconsistent; out of date, and unsuitable for those with disabilities.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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable