If you face challenges with mental health
Problems paying your tax? guide
HMRC’s duty to you
Under the law, HMRC must make “reasonable adjustments” for a person with a “mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.
HMRC’s internal guidance for DM (Debt Management department within HMRC) staff says that:
- your affairs should be handled sensitively and sympathetically
- if you provide evidence of a mental health problem, then DM may agree not to enforce the debt if this would cause unreasonable distress to you
- DM staff should refer to the Money Advice Liaison Group guidelines for an explanation of good practice in pursuing debts from people with mental health problems.
DM guidance is at:
Mental health – www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/dmbmanual/DMBM585185.htm
Elderly or infirm taxpayers – www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/dmbmanual/DMBM585180.htm
What this means in practice
This does not mean that DM (the tax collection part of HMRC) will simply write off your tax. But if you can provide DM with evidence that you have a mental health problem, such as a letter from your GP or other health professional, then you may reasonably ask for some leeway in the way you are treated. For example:
- if you need a little time to obtain evidence of your mental illness, this should be given
- if DM has asked for any details of your financial situation, but because of your illness you find paperwork particularly stressful, you should be allowed extra time to get help to gather this information
- if you are unable to give any attention to your tax debts for a short period while you are in hospital or undergoing other treatment, DM should normally be prepared to suspend action for a short period
- if you can show that enforcement action being threatened by DM would be harmful to your health, and that the tax debt could be settled as quickly in another way, then DM should take due account of this
- if your mental illness is expected to continue in the long term, with little likelihood of improvement, and that it is highly unlikely that you will ever be able to pay the tax, then DM should consider “remitting” the tax. This means that no further action is taken unless your circumstances improve unexpectedly. Remission is only likely to be given if you have low income, no assets, live in rented accommodation and are unlikely to return to work
Speaking to DM. It may feel difficult to speak to DM about your own mental health. You may prefer to ask a care worker, a friend or relative, or an advice agency such as TaxAid to speak to DM on your behalf. DMB should be willing to speak to them, but may ask you to sign a letter or form of authority before they will release any information to a third party.