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We did nothing wrong, says top official over tax demands

One of the country's leading tax officials has said he has no need to apologise to the 1.4 million people facing demands for extra money – insisting it was not an "extraordinary" situation and denying any errors by HM Revenue & Customs.

Dave Hartnett, the HMRC Permanent Secretary responsible for tax, has asked those who owed more than £2,000 to pay it back more quickly, arguing that they were likely to be the highest earners.

It is thought that 2.3 million people have underpaid income tax during the past two tax years due to errors in their Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax code, but around 900,000 will escape repayment after the Government raised the £300 write-off threshold.

Asked if he would apologise to those facing unexpected bills, Mr Hartnett told BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme: "I'm not sure I see a need to apologise. I've read the papers, listened to the media and heard stories of HMRC blunder and IT failure – neither of those are true."

He added: "We didn't get it wrong. This needs to be reconciled."

People who owe less than £2,000 will be able to pay the money in monthly instalments taken from their salary over one to three years.