My wife and I paid our tax for 2016-2017, which included capital gains tax of around £5,650 each.
This included a £100 penalty for a day-late submission of our returns online through our tax adviser — he had been seriously ill and this meant, eventually, we had to stop using him.
After its own calculations and computations, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) refunded the entire tax bill and penalty in November 2018.
One hand giveth: HMRC first refunded a couple’s tax bill before slapping them with a late payment fee and demanding it all back
But then, in May 2019, it demanded the money back again, with a late payment fee of around £1,000.
I appealed — asking why it had refunded the money and then asked us to pay again with huge penalties.
While I was waiting for its response, a further demand notice was issued from a debt management firm, this time with reduced penalties.
We settled this immediately to avoid interest charges.
Despite this and the appeal I had lodged with HMRC, the debt management firm issued two further notices asking for a huge amount of penalties.
I responded by sending copies of all my correspondence and reminding it about the appeal, but I have heard nothing back.
We are old-age pensioners with limited internet skills and hearing loss disability. This is causing an enormous amount of anxiety.
Mr and Mrs P., Gloucester.
If banks or insurance companies bullied customers and misbehaved as HMRC so often does, we would expect huge fines and compensation.
Yet this branch of Government gets away with issuing incorrect bills, setting debt collectors on customers, failing to answer letters and leaving us hanging on the end of the phone.
Nobody senior is ever brought to book, no one in Government takes responsibility and harassed front-line staff are abandoned to cope with confused, and often justifiably angry, taxpayers.
The debt management firm, which you don’t name, is in flagrant breach of the rules.
As soon as you disputed the debt, it should have gone back to HMRC to verify the situation, instead of issuing further demands.
After I made contact, HMRC moved up a gear. It tells me it has now resolved the issue and, while you have had to pay the tax bill, it has cancelled the penalties and interest.
In a statement, a spokesman apologised, saying: ‘They didn’t receive the high level of service they would expect from us.’
High level of service! Is HMRC kidding? We have long ago given up expecting a high level of service from it.
Now we are simply grateful if someone picks up the phone within half an hour or answers our letters within a couple of months.
But I don’t blame the front-line staff. They are overworked and have too few personnel. The Government needs to take responsibility and sort out this mess.
Senior heads must roll and a new culture must be instilled from top to bottom.
Straight to the point
My train to Exeter in May was delayed by 45 minutes, but I forgot to claim compensation and now I can’t. My return ticket was £176 and I should be entitled to 25 per cent of this — £44.
F. P., London.
Great Western Railway says that, unless there are extenuating circumstances, it pays out only if you make a claim within 28 days of a journey. However, it has now given you a £20 voucher.
I am 87 and, each year, I get a £300 Winter Fuel Payment. Until recently, I lived alone, but my 65-year-old son has moved home after suffering from mental illness. Will I lose my benefit?
S. L., Peterborough.
Any household with someone aged 80 or over is entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment of £300.
Once your son reaches state pension age, he will be entitled to a payment of £100 and you will receive £200, so the total will still be £300.
When I signed up to a Shell energy tariff, I had to agree to have a smart meter.
I’ve now been told if I don’t have one by September 13, I’ll be charged £150 in exit fees. But every time I call the contractor, it isn’t in my area.
C. K., Isle of Wight.
When you contacted the contractor, SMS, it didn’t tell Shell you’d asked for a smart meter. Once you phoned Shell, a note was put on your account to ensure you would not be removed from your tariff or charged an exit fee.
In March, I noticed that no money had been taken by my energy supplier, SSE, since January.
When I made contact, it informed me I was no longer a customer and, because of data protection regulations, it could not name my new supplier!
I then received two letters addressed to a Mr A Void from Utilita Energy, which said it was my new supplier.
I phoned four times before I could get through to the complaints team and, when I did, they said they would speak only to the person on the account — Mr A Void!
Utilita Energy requested a copy of my council tenancy agreement to prove I was living at the address, which I have done for 14 years.
As Utilita does not have an account in my name, SSE says it cannot be transferred back.
In addition, no money has been taken from my bank account since January to pay for the energy I’ve used, which is a concern as I am an OAP, have always paid my bills and do not wish to build up debt.
Mrs J. G., Northampton.
Do the complaints teams at either of these companies have a shred of common sense?
First, SSE hides behind data protection as an excuse for not assisting its customer, then it says it cannot transfer you back because the account is no longer in your name.
Meanwhile, some dunderhead at Utilita believes an account may be held by a Mr A Void. Well, Utilita has now confirmed your account was switched in error by a price comparison website. So, as far as Utilita was concerned, it was done in good faith.
However, Utilita says: ‘We do appreciate that the issue has been unsettling and frustrating for Mrs G, and we will be sending her a cheque for £60 and some flowers as a gesture of goodwill.’
SSE said that, when you advised the firm of the error, it did try to get your account returned, but the request was rejected by Utilita because it believed it had a valid contract.
Technically, you have remained a customer of SSE throughout this incident.
However, SSE acknowledges the unfortunate circumstances you were in were through no fault of your own.
It has therefore offered to clear half the balance on both your gas and electricity bills, and adds: ‘We will make every effort to support Mrs G with the remaining balance.’
I am 85 years old, live alone and am totally dependent on my main telephone connection, which is run by TalkTalk.
In the past few months, I have experienced a total nightmare with the phone not working most weekends.
Recently, I was without my line for two weeks. When it is working, often the crackling is so bad that I cannot hear.
I live in a village and, though I can use a mobile phone, it is very expensive, as I am on a pay-as-you-go contract.
Z. C., Norfolk.
It’s fortunate you had a mobile phone signal that allowed you to stay in touch with people.
I am familiar with your area, and the phone signal can be extremely dodgy in some parts.
TalkTalk apologises for the problems you have experienced and says it has now resolved the issue.
It has paid you £83.69 for the loss of service, plus a goodwill gesture of £150. This is high by telecoms firm standards, so shows how seriously it took your complaint.
- Write to Ask Tony, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email firstname.lastname@example.org — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving it permission to talk to Tony Hazell. Please do not send original documents. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.