Revenue and Customs boss says he need not apologise
By Paul Lewis Presenter, Money Box
Dave Hartnett is the senior tax professional at HMRC
The UK's top tax man has refused to apologise after taking the wrong amount of tax from six million people.
Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary at her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, claimed media stories of blunders and IT failures were wrong.
And he warned those who owed £2,000 or more in back tax they would have just over three months to repay it in full.
But John Andrews of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group said this could penalise some widows and pensioners.
Speaking exclusively to Radio 4's Money Box programme, Mr Hartnett said: "I'm not sure I see a need to apologise."
He added: "I've read the papers, listened to the media and heard stories of HMRC blunders and IT failure - neither of those are true."
He said the 5.7 million letters that he would be sending out to taxpayers before Christmas were the result of a normal process of matching the tax deducted from each taxpayer with their circumstances.
He confirmed that 1.4 million people would be told they had extra tax to pay.
And he revealed that those who owed the most tax would have the least time to pay.
Some taxpayers can expect more letters and tax returns from HMRC in the coming months
"Those [who owe] more than £2,000… will be given an opportunity to pay based on a notice from us, or, failing that, they will be brought within self-assessment.
"People who enter self-assessment are expected to pay within three months and a little bit more."
Those owing below £2,000 will have the money deducted from their pay or pension over 12 months, or three years in cases of hardship.
Mr Hartnett said that system would apply to "more than 80%" of those who owed money.
But he defended the tighter deadline for the biggest bills.
"I think owing the most may actually mean they're earning the most… I think it's very unlikely that a low earner will owe us more than £2,000 as a result of the process we're going through."
But John Andrews, chairman of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, was not convinced.
"The £2,000 procedure gives me concern," he said.
"There are circumstances in which over a two year period, for example on a bereavement where a widow suddenly inherits part of her late husband's pension, it is quite easy to run up this amount.
"I hope that HMRC would live up to the Your Charter expectations and look at individuals."
Mr Hartnett said that the main batches of letters to taxpayers would start going out in "early to mid October' and he still intended they would all arrive by Christmas.
Three quarters of those written to - 4.3 million people - will get a rebate averaging £400.
The rest, 1.4 million, will be told they have to pay the extra tax.
None will have to pay less than £300 and the average will be £1,428. Up to 250,000 could be asked for £2,000 or more.
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