Emma’s story

A query came through on our helpline from a beneficiary, who although anonymous, we will call ‘Emma’. Emma’s tax problems mounted due to her dyslexia and computer illiteracy, she felt too embarrassed to turn to others for help. Eventually, however, when Emma could no longer cope on her own, it was first her sister who got in touch with TaxAid on Emma’s behalf.

Emma has been a single mother since the death of her son’s father in 2013. This loss resulted in the family home being sold and Emma and her son moved into a one-bedroom flat. Emma became self-employed in 2015, carrying out work such as gardening, cleaning and childcare.

Although, she did register with the HMRC as she was supposed to, when the letters arrived telling her she needed to complete a tax return she did not understand what they meant. When she contacted HMRC for help she was pointed towards online resources, but, due to her dyslexia and computer illiteracy, this left her feeling even more confused.

Letters continued to arrive from the HMRC, with penalties for not submitting the returns. Emma paid the penalties as they came through to her, hoping this would help, but the letters and the penalties did not stop coming.

Over a prolonged period of time, Emma ended up paying over £4,700 in penalties to HMRC when her annual income was only approximately £6,000.

Emma finally turned to her sister for help after being unable to claim benefits due to her tax records not being up to date and when Emma’s sister contacted TaxAid on her behalf, Emma had been scraping by on the bare minimum as her work had dried up due to the pandemic.

At TaxAid, we were able to complete her tax returns and successfully appeal against the late filing penalties. This meant that Emma received a refund of £4,711.17 from HMRC, a refund of the penalties she had paid. Lifting an enormous weight off of her shoulders, Emma was finally free of the tax stress she had endured for so long.

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