1. Why do I need to check my tax code?
Your tax code tells your employer how much tax to take off your wages. If your employer uses the wrong code, they’ll take the wrong amount of tax…….and you’ve guessed it, it’s nearly always too much! HMRC sends out a new tax code at least once each year, but sometimes several times a year. Your employer has to use the tax code they’re sent, and they’ve no idea if it’s right or not. Ultimately it’s your job to check your employer’s got the right code and taken the right amount of tax. It’s a common mistake to believe that because “I’m on PAYE”, your employer sorts your tax and takes the right amount. Over 1 in 3 of the tax code reviews we complete end up with our customers getting a tax refund, so it’s clear every taxpayer should check their tax code.
2. How often do I need to check my tax code?
Ideally you should check it every year. You get a new tax code every year so you should always check it’s correct. You also need to do this in case your employer isn’t taking enough tax, otherwise you’ll end up owing HMRC money and that could cause you financial difficulties in the future.
3. Why might I be due a tax refund?
There are a couple of reasons. The first is HMRC could have made a mistake with your tax code in the last 4 years.
The other is you might not know there are tax allowances, (or were tax allowances as some of them have gone now) you were entitled to ask for so you paid less tax. If you didn’t know about these allowances, there’s no way you could ask HMRC to put them in your tax code, so they give you the wrong code. That meant you paid more tax than you needed to.
The good news is it’s not too late to get your money back because HMRC lets us go back up to 4 years to claim any allowances you missed out on, or to correct any mistakes.
The problem you’ve got is unless you know what to look for, you won’t spot any mistakes and unless you know what allowances you were entitled to, you can’t ask HMRC to let you have them! That means any money you overpaid is going to stay in HMRC’s bank account, instead of yours! HMRC also gives you a deadline to claim your money back. If you miss it, they’ll keep your money!
4. Doesn’t my employer check my tax code?
We’re asked this nearly every day! Your employer has to use the tax code they’re given by HMRC. If the code’s wrong, your employer can’t do anything about it. It’s up to you to check the code and make sure HMRC has given them the right one. If it’s wrong, it’s your responsibility to get it corrected as soon as possible.
5. How Much Will I Have To Pay You?
Unless we can get you a refund, you won’t pay us anything.
Where we do help you get a refund, our fees are easy to understand. If your refund is up to £100, our fee is £38. If it’s over £100, the fee is 38p for each £1 refunded. In the event your refund is less than £38, you’ll have nothing more to pay us.
Any refund you receive for a current tax year that’s paid directly into your wages is free of charge – there will be nothing to pay us on this part of the refund.
We’ll also arrange a new tax code for you where needed. Any savings this makes for you next year and each year thereafter will be yours to keep. You won’t pay us a fee for these either.
6. Isn’t your fee expensive?
If you’re thinking this, it’s worth looking at what options you’ve got, apart from using us.
The first option is you contact HMRC yourself. Take a look at Question 16 to see what this involves.
The second option is to use a high street accountant. They’ll charge you £100 – £150 per hour and you’ll have to pay this even if you don’t get a refund. If your case gets complicated, or HMRC asks them lots of questions, or loses your file and asks your accountant to resend it (which they’ve been known to do over and over again), you’ll end up paying your accountant loads of money! There’s no way of knowing how much it’s going to cost you until you’ve reached the end of the process, and by then it’s too late! It could easily turn out to be very expensive, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a refund!
The third option is you do nothing. During 2013-2015, 37% of the reviews we finished ended up with a refund, so if you look at that another way, by doing nothing there’s a 37% chance you’ll lose all the money HMRC owes you. That’s the same as paying 100% of your refund to HMRC. Now that’s really expensive!
The fourth option is to use another company. If you want to do this, here’s a couple of useful tips…
Tip 1 – Check for hidden charges. You may have to read the “small print” very carefully to find these charges.
Tip 2 – Check they’re not cherry picking or specifically looking for the big refund cases. If they quote average refunds of over £400, they are. Unless you’re likely to be due a large refund, these firms often find a way not to deal with your case, simply because it’s not worth their while for a lower percentage. They probably won’t say, “you’re not due anything”, but they’ll try and give you that impression. If you’re due a refund and they don’t get it back for you, you’ll probably lose the whole lot. That’s exactly the same as paying a fee of 100%!
Tip 3 – Check they’re not getting you to send your own claim direct to HMRC but making it look as if they’re doing it for you! (They’ll be telling you to send your paperwork to an address with the post code BX9 1AS which is HMRC.) Of course they won’t tell you they’re doing this because they want you to think they’re actually doing some work for you to justify their fee. It’s a very easy trick to miss if you don’t know what to look for, especially as it will be very well disguised. It has all the same risks we talk about in Question 16, with the added risk you’ll pay a fee as well. Apart from the fact you’ll pay them over 20% of your refund, plus a cheque handling fee for doing nothing but letting you download a pack of forms to fill out with some instructions on how to do it, you could end up facing serious problems with HMRC, which you will have to sort out on your own, or pay an accountant to sort out!
Tip 4 – If their website says that they’re members of an “Association”, or “Scheme” designed to protect you or your refund, do some proper background checks into the Association or Scheme. It’s probably not what it appears to be! Also, check the members of that Association or Scheme to see if they’re actually linked to each other, owned by the same people, or even exist! There’s at least one such organisation that several companies are still advertising on their websites, despite the fact it was closed down over 3 years ago!
Tip 5 – Check their “small print” doesn’t say that if HMRC says you have underpaid tax as a result of them making a claim, the company does not accept liability or that it is up to you to sort it yourself. It may not be worded as simply as this, but if you spot wording along these lines, it’s a good indication they’re just making claims for allowances they think you’ve missed out on. If they’re not doing a FULL review of your tax codes for the last 4 years, they could easily send in a claim when you actually owe more tax and they wouldn’t know, which is why their small print is designed to protect them and make it your problem to sort out if they get you into a mess. It could be a very costly problem!
There’s a number of very good reasons why we’re the “Approved Provider” for Trade Unions such as the NUT, ATL, UTU, RMT, & USDAW, professional bodies such as The Society of Chiropodists & Podiatrists, Association of Optometrists, Royal College of Nursing, as well as Local Authorities, Police Federations and major employers. Ultimately, like most things in this life, you’ll get what you pay for.
7. How long does it take?
To do a proper in-depth review, it’s probably going to take 6 – 10 weeks if you reply quickly to the letters or emails we send you. We’ll tell you if we put in a refund claim to HMRC. They normally take 6 – 8 weeks to deal with simple claims, but up to 30 weeks or more for complex claims. If you’ve read anywhere else that you can get your refund quicker than this, we suggest you take it with a pinch of salt! We send in thousands of refund claims every month so we know how long it really takes. It’s better we tell you the truth, rather than try to make out you’re going to get your money quickly. Remember, we only get paid when you get your refund, so we’ll do everything to try and get your money back as soon as possible.
8. What if I’m not due a refund?
Once we’ve finished your review, we’ll write and tell you we’ve finished and return any original documents you sent us.
9. How will I know if I’ve got a refund?
You’ll get a letter directly from HMRC telling you how much you’re getting. They’ll also tell you they’re sending the refund to “your agent”. It will show your agent as PTS or Personal Taxation Services which is us.
10. If I get a refund, what happens to my cheque?
If they follow your instructions, HMRC will send us a cheque. We’ll take our fee and send the balance to you. You should get your cheque within 28 days of the date shown on the letter you’ve got from HMRC.
28 days is just a guide because local or national postal strikes or changes in the way HMRC send out assessments and refunds might slow things up. It also takes up to 28 days because we often don’t get the cheque for 7-10 days after they send you a letter, even though your letter may say they’ve sent it.
Once we’ve got your refund, we’ll check it’s correct and hold on to it for a minimum 7 days to make sure HMRC doesn’t ask for some of it back! We do get cheques for more than the amount due and HMRC will always want it back, so the last thing we want to do is to send you a refund and then have HMRC ask you for some of it back!
11. Do you know how much I am going to get?
We’ve got a good idea but HMRC does the final calculation and then we check it before we send you the cheque.
12. How long have you been offering this service?
8,165 days at the time of writing this, or 195,972 hours or 11,758,320 seconds!! The service actually became available on the 19th August 1993, although in those days the service was called Professional Taxation Services , until it seemed everyone thought they needed to be a doctor, solicitor, architect or something “professional” sounding to use the service. The business has changed hands since then and significant investment through our new owners is enabling us to implement a whole raft of new initiatives to help improve the service we offer you.
13. Where are your Terms & Conditions?
You can view them by clicking here
14. I want to use your service so what do I need to do?
You’ve got a few choices.
If you’re still on our website (and haven’t printed these questions off as a pdf), you can click on the “Apply Now” button at the top of the screen. You’ll need to give us some basic information to start the review. We’ll look at your answers and then email or write to you for more information. When you click the “Apply Now” button, you’ll also get the option to use a printable form which you fill in on screen and then print and post to us.
You can simply call our dedicated customer care team on 0161 968 7345 and they will take your application over the telephone.
You can fill in the form your employer, trade union or professional body have given you and send it to the FREEPOST address shown on the form. (In case it’s not obvious, it’s The Tax Refund Company, FREEPOST RTHS-EKKC-BEAU, Grosvenor House, Stockport, SK1 3TZ)
If you don’t have a claim form you can either open a pdf version and print it off by clicking here or if you’ve not got a printer, just send us a stamped and self-addressed envelope and we’ll send you one. Send your envelope to Nicola Hoyle, The Tax Refund Company, Grosvenor House, St Thomas’s Place, Stockport SK1 3TZ. Any size envelope will be just fine, but please don’t forget to put your name and address on it and a 1st or 2nd class stamp.
15. I’m retired so can I still use your service?
If you’ve received more than one pension, or paid tax on your pension in the last 4 years, it’s definitely worth letting us check your tax code.
16. Can I check my tax code or find out if I am due a tax refund myself?
If you really know what you’re doing and can actually get through to HMRC, of course you can. But that assumes you’ve got lots of patience, plenty of time, and know exactly which areas of your tax you need to look at in each of the last 4 tax years. You’ll also need to know which allowances you were entitled to claim, where mistakes may have been made by HMRC or an employer, and most importantly, what questions you’re going to need to ask HMRC.
It also assumes you know enough about the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) rules so when you ask HMRC a question, you know the answers they give you are actually right, which may not always be the case! A survey of HMRC’s customer call centres by The Low Income Tax Reform Group found that HMRC consistently made mistakes – in some more complicated cases up to 80% of the answers they gave were wrong!
If you manage to get a refund yourself, you’ll need to know enough about tax to check it’s the right amount. If they pay you too much, you can be certain they’ll want it back in the future, even if you’ve spent it! It’s actually more likely they won’t pay you enough, so you might have missed out on a large refund we could have got back for you. Let’s be clear though, if they don’t send you enough, it’s most likely going to be your fault for not asking the right questions, not HMRC’s.
The other thing you need to be aware of (and this is something you never get told by all those people and websites who say you can do this yourself), is that by speaking directly to HMRC and asking them to open your file to check your tax, they might say you owe them money! They may be right, but the amount you owe could be much less than they’re telling you. Over 50% of the underpayment cases we look at are wrong! Unless you know what you’re doing, you’ll have no option but to pay them the amount they demand. They’ll probably just start taking it from your wages so you’ll have no choice.
Using our service, you’ll avoid these risks because we know exactly what we’re doing (as we should do having done this for over 2.9 million taxpayers in the last 22 years) and we’ll only contact HMRC if we think you’re owed a refund.
17. This review goes back over 4 years. I’ve only worked for my employer for a short time. Is it still worth me applying for your service?
Yes. If you’ve paid tax in any of the last 4 years, you’ve got nothing to lose.
18. How can you check my tax code or find out if I’m due a refund when you’re only asking a few questions?
We’ve worked hard to make this process really easy to follow and simple to use so we don’t ask you for details we don’t need at the start. If we did, we’d need to send you about 40 pages of questions, most of which won’t be relevant to you.
Depending on what you’ve told us on the claim form, we’ll be able to see exactly what we need to ask next. We’ll write and ask you for this once we’ve got your completed claim form. If you want to supply any additional information you think may be of use, please do. It is better to give us too much than too little.
19. What if I can’t find or don’t have all the information you ask for?
It’s not a problem. Just give us what you can. If you can’t answer a question or you don’t have a document we ask for, just tell us when you send back the paperwork or reply to our online questions. Just because you can’t provide the information we ask for, doesn’t mean we can’t get you a refund. You should always send back the paperwork or respond to the online questions. If you don’t, we probably won’t be able to finish your review, which means you’re very likely to lose any money you’re owed by HMRC.
20. Do I have to send you my original pay slip and P60?
There’s no need to send us your original P60 or pay slip – copies will be OK. Alternatively you can let us have the “Taxable Pay” and “Tax Paid” figures off each P60 for the last 4 years – if you have them.
21. I need my original P60 / pay slips back. How do I get them?
If for any reason you have sent us your original P60, just call us on 0161 968 7300 and we’ll send them back.
22. What if you find I’ve not paid enough tax?
It’s very unlikely. However, if you’ve underpaid, we’ll ONLY tell you, not HMRC. You should then inform HMRC or you can ask us to do it for you, but we can’t insist you tell them.
We also have an underpayment guarantee – we guarantee if you get an unexpected tax demand as a result of our work, we’ll pay the tax bill for you! (T&C’s available here)
If they spot you’ve underpaid at a later date through their own system, they’re likely to charge you interest and penalties. It’s in your interest to contact them, as you’re likely to avoid penalties and interest at a later date. However, if we think there are reasons you shouldn’t have to repay some, or even all, of the money you owe, (there are various reasons why this may be the case) we’ll tell you and give you an opportunity to use our specialist Underpayment Service.
23. I’ve got an “Underpayment Notice” from HMRC saying I owe them more tax. Can you help?
If you’ve got an Underpayment Notice from HMRC and you want us to look at it for you, you need to fill in one of our claim forms (see question 14) and send it to us in the post together with a copy of the Underpayment Notice. We’ll be in touch and let you know if we can help you through our specialist Underpayment Service.
24. I’ve received my refund cheque directly from HMRC so what should I do?
HMRC have made a mistake and not followed your instructions which said to send the cheque to us, so please give us a call on 0161 968 7300 and let us know. We’ll ask you to send us the paperwork they sent you so we can make sure they’ve sent you the right amount.
We strongly suggest you don’t spend any of the refund until you’ve contacted us and we’ve confirmed it’s correct. We often get refunds where HMRC has sent too much and we’ve had to send the cheque back and ask them to send us the right amount. HMRC would have eventually spotted their error, possibly up to a year or more later, and wanted the money back anyway, but we managed to stop our customers being given the money, spending it and then being told they had to pay it back. HMRC always gets their money back, even if you’ve spent it, because ultimately it’s your job to check you’ve paid the right amount of tax.
Once we’ve checked it’s the right amount, we’ll send you an invoice for our fee, which we’d like you to pay within 14 days, by cheque, BACS, credit or debit card.
Obviously because we’ve made your claim, HMRC will also tell us they’ve sent it to you and when, but this might be quite a while after they send it to you and you’ll probably have spent the money by the time they tell us.
Although it’s obvious, we must remind you that you’re still legally liable for our fee if HMRC sends the refund to you instead of us.
25. On your form, you’re asking if I’ve paid professional subscriptions – what are professional subscriptions?
These are generally payments you make to a professional body that relate to your job, keeping you up to date with current issues or training. In some cases, payments to a Trade Union are also classed as “professional subscriptions”. If you’re in any doubt, just tick the box anyway and we’ll find out for you.
26. Can my wife / husband / son / daughter/ mother / father / aunty / uncle / friend use your service even though they are not a member of my trade union / don’t work for the same company as me?
Yes, as long as they are aged over 16. If you’ve got a form you’ve not yet filled in, you can copy it. If not, question 14 tells you how to get one. We can’t provide our service for your dog, cat, gerbil, stick insect or other pet. You might find it hard to believe, but we’ve had applications for them in the past but unfortunately they’ve not paid tax so we can’t get them a refund.
27. How come my friend / colleague does the same job as me and got a refund and I didn’t?
Everyone has their own unique tax affairs and personal circumstances and so the tax they’ve paid may well be different. Just because your friend or colleague got a refund doesn’t mean you’re due one. Even if you filled out your claim form and answered all our questions with exactly the same information as your friend or colleague, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a refund just because they did. We’ve had people do that in the past and they’re always disappointed as even if we put in a refund claim to HMRC, they’ll always spot something’s wrong.
28. I’m using your service – how do I contact you by telephone?
We’d love to hear from you. Give us a call on 0161 968 7300. At really busy times, you may have to leave a message and we’ll call you back. It’s always helpful if you leave us a mobile number or a number where we can leave a message as when it’s particularly busy it’s difficult for us to keep calling you back.
29. I haven’t used your service yet and I still have some questions, so can I contact you by telephone?
Yes, we’d love to speak with you so just call us on 0161 968 7345 during our normal office hours, which are Monday to Friday 9 to 5.
30. Can I come and see you?
Of course you can. We’d love to show you around, although we can’t promise it’s going to be as interesting as visiting a chocolate factory. We’re here working hard to recover your money from Monday to Friday, normally between 9 and 5. It’s a good idea to give us a call before you visit so we can make sure there’s someone to meet you. We wouldn’t want to keep you waiting.