February 2022

In this edition of the Bridge the Gap newsletter, we hear from PwC who supported TaxAid at the AccountingWeb Live Expo in December. We highlight some unusual fundraising  (including an upcoming CIOT digital conference), have a three-minute interview with John Whitehead, and Ian Browne, an advisor and caseworker for TaxAid, tells us about his work. Penny Hamilton and Stephen Banyard open the newsletter, urging you to leave a legacy in your will and Valerie has an update on what we are doing to support people through Making Tax Digital.

Dear Friends,

We hugely value your support which each year enables the tax charities to help 20,000 vulnerable people in crisis with their tax.

We are writing to ask you to join us in supporting the charities in the longer term by also remembering them in your will.

It would make a crucial difference. Recent figures from the Charity Commission show that of the £10bn donated to charities in 2018, £2.8bn was donated by people in their wills.

The tax charities have been helping vulnerable people with their tax for almost 30 years. And you know from your experience that the need is only likely to grow. The number of
self-employed people, many on very low incomes, has been increasing and looks set to grow further. And as the generations born in the post-war period reach retirement age there will be greater numbers of pensioners who need our help.

With your support, we are in it for the long haul. The world our clients live in is changing, presenting them with new problems. It has never been more important for the tax charities to plan for the longer term. By remembering the tax charities in your will, you can help us do this – and be here for generations to come.

We are both supporting the charities with a gift in our wills. It can be done simply by adding a Codicil or through making a residuary or specific bequest when you next draw up a new will.

Would you join us in making a bequest to one or both tax charities? You will be supporting future generations – and in every vulnerable person we help with their tax, your kindness will live on.

On practicalities, we suggest you seek the advice of your solicitor to do this but a simple Codicil form can be found on our websites Tax Help (download here) and TaxAid (download here). Contact Alice Devitt ( if you would like to discuss this or any other legacy issue.

Thank you so much for your support.
Penny Hamilton, Chair of Tax Help
Stephen Banyard, Chair of TaxAid

Helping vulnerable people cope with Making Tax Digital

Making Tax Digital will be the biggest change to the personal tax system since Self Assessment was introduced in the 1990s. At the moment, MTD has focused on VAT submissions. Over the coming months and years, it will include Income Tax and Corporation Tax. Many of you are already advising businesses registered for VAT and will have seen the many benefits that MTD can bring. Less paperwork, efficient bookkeeping and timely information can transform a business if they have access to high-quality, paid advice.

The same benefits will apply to individuals who can rely on a qualified and skilled agent to support them. The vulnerable people we support cannot afford that paid advice and are often digitally excluded. TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People already support digitally excluded people with your help.

HMRC has decided against producing free MTD compliant software for low-income taxpayers, as they currently do for Self Assessment. MTD will rely on third-party software companies to produce free software. Choosing this software will be beyond the capabilities of those struggling with language and literacy challenges or mental health difficulties.

Good digital records are mandatory for MTD compliance but many vulnerable taxpayers struggle with record-keeping or rely solely on paper.

The tax professions have been preparing for Making Tax Digital for some time yet the wider population has yet to be aware of these huge changes to Self Assessment. We are working now to find ways to support digitally excluded people before the 2024/25 tax year.

We are already working in partnership with HMRC to understand the barriers to MTD compliance. Our direct research with community and advice charities has already provided insight into necessary considerations as MTD is developed for Self Assessment. Over the coming months, we will be asking vulnerable people across the country what they need from us to support their engagement with MTD. We will build pilot projects that directly reflect the voice of digitally excluded taxpayers ready to meet the digital tax challenges of 2024/25.

I will update you on this journey as we learn how to meet the digital needs of our beneficiaries and hope we can rely on your support as we address this compelling challenge.

Three minute interview with John Whitehead

1. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser. I joined Andersen as a graduate from Cambridge University and specialise in Tax from the outset. I moved to Deloitte in 2002 when Andersen merged with Deloitte. My specialism has been advising international institutional investors on large UK and European Real Estate transactions which involved frequent travel across Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. For several years I led Deloitte’s London Real Estate Tax Group and also did a stint on Deloitte’s UK Tax Executive. Having taken early retirement from Deloitte I now largely devote my time to charitable and voluntary activities.

2. Why are you supporting BTG?

I became a volunteer Tax Adviser for Tax Help for Older People in 2015 working with clients in North West London and still do this today. I was appointed as a Trustee of Tax Help in 2017. Currently, I’m spending a lot of time working on Fundraising for BTG. Having seen first-hand the role that Tax Help plays for clients I am a firm believer that those of us in the Tax profession who are in a position to contribute financially and/or with their time should do so.

3. What sort of fundraising have you been involved in for BTG?

I’m keen on the London Legal Walk and have walked with the BTG team in 2018, 2019 and 2021. Whilst it was rather wet last October, it was a great way to raise money for BTG as well as meet other supporters and staff of the Tax Charities. Our team of walkers representing BTG in 2021 was the largest yet – 70 people raising over £9,000 – and many of us ended the evening over drinks and pizzas in Gray’s Inn provided by the Trustees. Next year, London Legal Walk is returning to its traditional June date which should hopefully encourage even more of our supporters to join.

4. What do you like best about fundraising?

I enjoy working with and developing relationships with people across the different strands of the Tax Profession who have a common goal but bring different professional experiences and complementary professional networks. I have had a chance to get to know many senior people with a background in law firms, the Bar, industry, HMRC and the judiciary whom I would never have encountered in my previous role at Deloitte and I also get the chance to keep up with some former colleagues.

5. What’s the worst part?

The frustration when someone I know very well does not respond to an email. But I then tend to find that it’s been buried amongst hundreds of emails relating to a transaction they are working on at the time!

6. Do you have any tips for anyone else considering fundraising for BTG?

Spend a bit of time getting to know more about the Charities and the various opportunities to get involved whether by supporting events such as London Legal Walk or organising your own fundraising activities. I would encourage meeting and chatting to some of the Senior Management Team and perhaps some of the Trustees and other fundraisers. You’ll quickly become part of a real team effort.

And, now for something completely different!

With fundraising, you can often find that unusual or unique ideas can get the most attention.

We’ve had some brilliant events hosted for Bridge the Gap, and we are so grateful to all those who raise money on our behalf. Unique doesn’t need to mean ‘wacky’ or ‘out there’. Recently, we had a poetry event hosted by Women In Tax, where the proceeds went towards the tax charities.

We also regularly have CIOT host CPD days. The income raised goes to the tax charities – the next one is on Tuesday 1st March 2022. You can book your place here.

These events are an invaluable support of our work. Over the last few particularly strange years, our fundraisers have been ever more creative. We have seen a virtual Bollywood concert live from India, virtual relay races where racers ‘passed’ a wooden spoon baton over zoom, a ‘Kilimanjaro’ equivalent trek up and down the stairs and a virtual ‘take out to help out’ appeal where participants donated the cost of a takeout meal and had virtual dinners with their colleagues.

So, if you’ve got an idea for fundraising for us, we can’t wait to hear it!

PwC and TaxAid at the AccountingWeb Live conference

“PwC recently assisted TaxAid with the AccountingWEB Live conference and it was a fantastic event. Not only was it a privilege for the PwC team to represent TaxAid and share the great work that TaxAid do, the PwC Volunteers were also able to discuss their own experiences of helping TaxAid clients directly and relay the benefits that have been provided to both clients and the volunteers themselves.

It was a great experience for all those involved and it was really refreshing to attend a live in-person event, particularly given the impact of the pandemic. We look forward to the next opportunity to help TaxAid.”

– Josh Rogers, Senior Manager, PwC – Private Clients & Family Offices

Ian Browne tells us about his work with TaxAid

I’ve worked for TaxAid for 10 years as a helpline adviser and caseworker. More recently as we have expanded our network of volunteers I now also supervise & quality control their advice to ensure the client gets the very best service.

TaxAid provides a whole range of free tax advice from simple PAYE and self-employment telephone queries to more in-depth casework concerning historical tax debt and tax returns arrears.

We proactively resolve long-standing tax issues that our clients haven’t been able to or have been overwhelmed by. This involves direct contact with HMRC and the clients themselves through correspondence, phone calls and emails.

At TaxAid we have to be patient with our clients and explain to them why they are in the predicament they find themselves in – for many it is the complexities of tax that have led to
disengagement with HMRC.

These difficulties can frequently be exaggerated by mental or physical health limitations, English as a second language, poor record-keeping etc. Often HMRC are completely unaware of these difficulties and so may perceive clients before our intervention as just another uncooperative taxpayer.

Aside from our helpline (0345 120 3779 Mon – Fri 9 am to 5 pm), we also receive direct client referrals from other voluntary agencies like Citizens Advice, Business Debtline and Mental Health charities.

The pandemic has changed the way we work and since the first lockdown, we have been unable to offer face to face appointments. However, despite Covid-19 – and in fact because of it – many clients coming to us face tax debt issues due to loss of incomes, jobs etc. It seems that now, more than ever, there is a need for a service such as ours to help the low paid and vulnerable to navigate their way through our labyrinthine tax system and regain control of their financial and tax affairs.

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