HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Guilty Until Proven Innocent - Concentrix Makes Up For Lost Time

On Sunday I noted that Accountancy Age, on the very same day as my article about Dearnley, wrote about outsourced tax credit Concentrix staff in Belfast being paid millions (approx £72M) to do nothing for three months as a result of a systemic HMRC IT failure.

Concentrix were tasked with checking up on erroneous or fraudulent UK working tax credit payments.

Clearly worried over the time wasted, Concentrix are now applying themselves with gusto to the task and have gone for a spot of fishing. As per the Independent:
"When Mary Folwell got a letter from HM Revenue & Customs last month, she put it to one side assuming it was just a standard reminder that her tax credits would be renewed.
When she got round to opening it, she had a shock. It was actually from an HMRC-appointed agency named Concentrix – and it accused her of living with someone and threatened that unless she could prove otherwise, her tax credits would be stopped within 30 days.

"It said they had evidence to suggest that I was living with someone, which sent me off into panic mode," Mary, a 55-year- old pre-school teacher in Bristol, told me. "I separated from my husband two years earlier and had moved into a small flat on my own. There really has never been anyone else here."

The letter threatened that if Concentrix did not hear from her by 24 February, "we will stop your tax credit". "I only get £15 a week," explained Mary – "which may not seem much but it's crucial to my budget. If I lost that money, I would really struggle."

She's not alone. Tens of thousands of people – mainly single mothers, it seems – have been targeted with similarly bullying letters. The letters are not only frightening, but their demands are needlessly onerous. In short they demand that people supply almost all their personal details to prove some spurious suspicions that HMRC may have. Failure to do so within a couple of weeks means losing out on essential cash for which they are eligible."
This is corroborated by a loyal reader, who commented yesterday regarding postal delays:
"......and better.......have heard that working tax credit disputed overpayments post is so far behind that they are starting to send out "shortened" response letters not explaining anything but just telling the taxpayer to pay up.

Quality customer service !!
Low hanging fruit are the easiest to pick, especially when using the tactic of guilty until proven innocent!

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Last year, parliament passed a draconian piece of legislation, which overturns a cherished legal principle – the presumption of innocence – when HMRC is investigating so-called tax avoidance.
    The tax system is a mess! It is too complicated, too difficult for ordinary taxpayers to understand and too expensive.
    Yet instead of working to simplify the system, successive governments have felt that the answer is just to award HMRC extra powers.
    However, left unchecked, HMRC officials will use the new powers to grab cash off completely innocent taxpayers and these powers will, over time, inevitably be expanded to all manner of disputes between taxpayers and the State.
    We are now faced with a situation where businesses and individuals have to pay an amount demanded by HMRC whether it is actually correct or not. And given HMRCs ability to fuck it up, it wont be right! This cannot be right, should not be legal and is not fair or just.

  2. The story cannot be accurate. A private corporation given unprecedented bulk information to target this vulnerable population? Just before a general election? Given policing rights on the same population? Inviting MP complaints on tens of thousands of instances? Many in marginal constituencies and many in Scotland? With highly questionable constitutional implications? This story cannot be accurate.

    1. I can assure you it is. I used to work there....

    2. I am a single parent and have just been accused by Concentrix of having a man living with me, they named him (my upstairs neighbour). I was told I was also renting a room to a woman , they named her (my next door neighbour). I tried to explain I liven in a block of 6 apartments but was just told that I had 30 days to prove them wrong . NIGHTMARE

    3. same here!!!!!!!!! I am apparently living with my married female next door neighbour ( I am a heterosexual woman) and have a notice to pay over £3,500. This is all since a wrongly addressed letter arrived at my address for my neighbour. I have an MP involved now but if I don't pay up by November, they are sending the debt recovery agency in! I am on sick leave, the stress is way too much to cope with and to do a job, drive long distances etc. Its a living hell

    4. These are really horrific stories, but I blame HMRC not Concentrix for 3 reasons.
      1. HMRC hired them & set the terms of business
      2. Targets set by HMRC were no doubt very tough and would almost encourage corners to be cut in their zeal to meet them (this could be seen as HMRC getting a private business to do their dirty work, improve the stats and hope for the best i.e. a manoeuvre designed to shift the blame)
      3. HMRC were evidently aware of the problems long ago so where was even a basic level of supervision?

      Jon Thompson, Lin Homer & Edward Troup have all been very well rewarded by HMRC and in return for the generous salaries the public pay them we should expect them all to be fully accountable to the PAC for the problems this particular incompetence is evidently causing to people.

  3. Given the right to accuse you based on crap information,and put the onus on you to prove your innocence.
    Given the right to demand payments through threats, bullying and intimidation.
    Money through menaces and victimisation
    This is not the way ANYONE should be treated in the U.K.
    Who's responsible for allowing it to happen, and who's duty is it to put a stop to this travesty

  4. I received a letter yesterday saying they want all my child care details and invoices (which I have not kept).! Even though I've not done anything wrong, the tone and contents of the letter are worrying!

  5. Tell them to prove their claim on you. Demand that they tell you exactly what they are alleging that you have done wrong, ask for all the calculations showing their claim, and then hit them with the freedom of information act and request a copy of everything they have on you, paper, electronic, screen prints, etc.
    You are innocent..........they have to prove your guilt.......and you don't have to do anything to help them either way. HMRC are just your servants, but they've lost sight of who's in charge of who. Time for a lesson in customer service.

    1. "...and then hit them with the freedom of information act ..."

      Nope. Data protection act.

  6. anyone have an anonymised specimen of such a letter?


  8. I also received one of these letters with the reason they want it being given as, "THEY", think H.M.R.C., The Jobcentre and me are wrong!!! I have only been working for the past 2 years after 8 years on disability.

    I am self-employed as a private hire driver. Here is the information Concentrix want, (plus other stuff) 9th July:

    Proof of hours worked, (I don't clock on and have no "proof")
    My Unique Taxpayer References, (????? and why?)
    Registration Documents for vehicles, (it's a company car)
    Evidence of N.I. Contibutions, (i.e. bank statements chance)
    My completed Tax Credits Renewal Pack, ( H.M.R.C. doesn't want that till 31st July ...and I do it online anyway!!)
    Proof of earnings for the year, (i.e. my complete Tax Return ..which H.M.R.C. doesn't want till January 2016 ...and I do it online anyway!!)
    Details of all bookings I did in the year 2014/15, (surely against the Data Protection Act, (as if my office is gonna print out every job I did from the 60 odd other drivers over 12 months!!) that ain't gonna happen).

    I guess I'm losing my tax credits but, do I care???
    Like hell I do!! I can resort back to unemployment or back on disability and get housing and council tax benefit again ...which amounts to more than my earnings and tax credits. Bloody numpties!!

    1. I've got a very similar issue as you. What was your outcome? Did they stop your tax credits? Was you issue a penalty charge?

  9. Anonymous @ 04.56 :The dates you have given for Tax Credit and Self Assessment are not targets, they are deadlines! Your 2015 tax return was due from 6th April 2015. If you are self employed you must have a ten digit UTR (Unique Tax Payer reference), everyone does. Filing on line is not a problem, once you have filed just go in & print copies off. There is no reason to wait until January to file your tax return for the year 6 April 2014 to April 5 2015

  10. Yes and a deadline is just that a deadline so any time up until the last second is fine. You dont have to do 70mph on a national speed limit road but if you choose to then that is fine. It is not up to you to dictate when people do their return as the 6th of April and the following 31st of Jan are equal both as valid and neither one better nor worse than the other.

  11. Anonymous @ 04.56 : The enquiry window is not open, which is why they are trying to get you to submit your renewal pack early, plus your tax return. For a self-employed claimant on Self Assessment, an enquiry into your previous year's award cannot be opened until both of the following have happened:

    1. You have submitted your renewal and a final decision is made on your previous year's award.

    2. You have completed your tax return and submitted a final figure to the tax credit office. Before you submit your tax return, it can only be an estimated figure and they cannot open an enquiry until the final figure is provided.

    The enquiry window closes 1 year after you submit your tax return.

    Basically they are flouting the law, knowing that most people will not be aware of all the little intricacies of tax credits legislation. It is a mess, after all.

    There is a lot of useful info in the tax credits technical manual: and the compliance manual:

    Incidentally, they *do* have access to Self Assessment data, including UTRs and NI contribution records. I'd write them one very snotty letter and tell them to get knotted, but that's just me :)

  12. I am highly concerned by this practice of requesting bulk amount of sensitive data under vague suspicion. Here are my thoughts and what I have gathered so far. I'd love to hear more from everyone.