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HMRC says sorry for tax mistakes with flowers costing £10k

2-minute read

Lauren Hellicar

8 November 2018

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What’s the best way to say sorry to taxpayers when you get their tax seriously wrong?

Say it with flowers? HMRC certainly thinks so.

When the tax authority makes a mistake with someone’s taxes, it’s going one better than a plain old apology letter these days.

Seeking to offer a ‘more personal gesture’ to taxpayers who’ve been inconvenienced, they’ve turned to sending apology flowers to the tune of £10,000, reports Sky.

A Freedom of Information request by the Daily Telegraph revealed that HMRC has racked up a florist’s bill of £10,298 since 2014 – with £3,149 of that total spent in just one year.

HMRC’s reasoning behind its floral gestures is to alleviate the serious effect of making mistakes in cases where people are vulnerable or where someone has died, reports The Telegraph.

HMRC mistakes that have prompted a flower delivery

Customers who’ve received a bouquet from the taxman include the cafe owner from Stockport who received a tax bill of nearly one billion pounds, and a pensioner expecting a rebate of £800 who received just one pound back from HMRC.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Sophie Jarvis of the Adam Smith Institute said: "This practice sounds like it was invented under a Richard Curtis-esque Chancellor.

“Of course, if HMRC had a slightly simpler tax system, they wouldn't get themselves into this pickle in the first place. And I think they'd rather the cash than some flowers."

The Telegraph spoke to an HMRC contact who said: “For some mistakes, a simple ‘sorry’ may not be enough and we think sending flowers can be a more personal gesture to put things right.”

Is it time for a simpler tax system?

A report by Sky quotes John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, who said: "What a ridiculous and woefully inadequate way of apologising to hard-pressed taxpayers who have been let down by the system.

"The best way for HMRC to cut down on the costs of sending flowers would be to avoid making the errors in the first place.

"The UK's tax code is so complex that even HMRC bureaucrats don't know how to administer it properly.

"This is yet another reminder to politicians that we need radical reform and simplification of the tax system."

Don’t forget the 2019 online tax return deadline

This news comes as the 31 January online tax return deadline looms closer. You can find out more about what you need to do to get yours in on time by reading our small business guide to Self Assessment tax returns.

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