Almost one million people trapped by the Government’s tax fiasco are being reprieved.
The move is a relief for cash-strapped families and pensioners who had faced a struggle to meet the shock demand for underpaid tax.
In addition, a further 1.4million who owed more than £300 have been given three years to pay back what they owe, instead of just 12 months.
The decision follows days of anger over the fiasco, revealed by the Daily Mail last weekend. It was caused by problems with the introduction of a new computer system at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
It culminated in financial experts revealing that many taxpayers could avoid the repayments altogether if they exploited a little-known loophole in the tax law.
Yesterday, following a series of emergency questions in Parliament, the Treasury said it has decided to write off anybody’s bill if the amount they owed was £300 or less. The previous limit was £50 or less.
The problem is that the Mail has, in reality, achieved a round sum of absolutely fuck-all.
For a start, the practice of paying back underpayments over several years is long established. And to make matters even simpler, unless it is over £2,000 you can do it through the tax code rather than using cold, hard cash. A quick Google search, taking all of 30 seconds, confirms this through HMRC's PAYE Manual.
As to the £300 write-off for underpayments, that does indeed replace the previous limit of £50. However, as the blog HMRC Is Shite confirms, this was known about at least a week ago. That is, before news of the tax errors broke on Saturday, and certainly before the whirlwind of tabloid fury.
But, of course, these are just inconvenient facts. Acknowledging them would only get in the way of claiming "victory" over the tax man.
Speaking of said victory, Max Hastings deserves an honourable mention here for stating that people face errors in their tax bills because "HMRC’s butter-fingered staff totted them up wrong on the back of their envelopes."
The truth, as I detailed on Saturday, is quite different. But, then, you can't really expect any less from journalists whose job it is to find a stick with which to beat the working class.