HM Revenue chiefs were yesterday ordered by MPs to stop sending threatening letters to people who owed them money, warning that cars and televisions would be seized and sold off for a pittance.
In a scathing rebuke, tax bosses were told by the Commons’ Treasury committee that the ‘widely used’ practice of mailing out threats to auction off people’s property was ‘completely inappropriate’.
In a damning report this weekend on HMRC’s performance, the Treasury committee said: ‘These letters appear to have been widely used without sufficient thought to whom they were sent to, even being sent to people who did not actually owe money.
The report is available here. It says,
It is inevitable that HMRC will have to pursue some taxpayers for outstanding debts and it may have to be forceful in doing so. However, the tone of some of the letters being sent out suggest the “potential consequences” are inevitable unless payment is immediately forthcoming. These letters appear to have been widely used without sufficient thought to whom they were sent to, even being sent to people who did not actually owe money. Such language is appropriate only where there is strong evidence of persistent and deliberate non-payment; it is completely inappropriate where the amount owed is in dispute, where the amount may be zero, or where the recipient is vulnerable. We recommend HMRC take steps to ensure such hard-hitting correspondence is used in a more proportionate way, is better tailored to individual case histories and contains information on the specific debt in question.
Quite right too.