BRITAIN’S top tax official was forced into an embarrassing U-turn this weekend after initially refusing to apologise to more than a million people facing surprise bills.
Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said he was “deeply sorry” that administrative errors meant 1.4m people would have to pay an average of £1,428 in extra tax before Christmas. Mistakes in pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) tax codes resulted in 2.3m individuals underpaying income tax over the past two years, although around 900,000 will escape repaying money after the government raised the write-off threshold.
On Saturday morning, Hartnett warned those owing £2,000 or more would have just three months to settle the bill. Those owing less would have the amount deducted from their pay or pension over 12 months.
He said he was “not sure I see a need to apologise” and argued the shorter timeframe for people owing more would be workable because they would tend to be higher earners.
But after pressure from the government, Hartnett reversed his position. “I am deeply sorry that people are facing an unexpected tax bill. Everyone in HMRC is working hard to make this as painless as possible,” he said.