Newsletter

November 2021

Dear Friends,

I hope this finds you well.

We have just reached our first million in the Bridge the Gap campaign!

Starting quite modestly in summer 2015, with your consistent support we have built up to the point where BTG is now a vital part of the funding for the two charities: the BTG campaign raises just over £200,000 each year and cumulatively we have just passed our first million.

Thank you so much for all your support. It makes a huge difference. Our clients are all in poverty and vulnerable too for other reasons. The problems they are bringing now are similar to those we have seen in recent years but we are now seeing some different people – people drawn into poverty for the first time as a result of the COVID pandemic and the economic impact on their livelihoods. Your support enables us to help resolve the crisis with their tax and help put them back on their feet

Looking back over our first six years of the BTG campaign, Sir Stephen Oliver was there when we launched in 2015 and has played an important part in BTG’s growth. Steve Edge, from Slaughter and May became our Patron and has led a great team of ambassadors who have introduced the campaign to their colleagues. Matt Ellis at Deloitte brought the support of a very large firm and encouraged other large firms to follow suit. And the CIOT has been fantastic throughout in providing encouragement and support. There are so many more individual people and businesses I could name whose generosity has been wonderful. Space does not permit but to all of you our sincere thanks.

This month we’ve seen three striking examples of support for the two charities in sponsored fund raising. Tina Riches ran the virtual London Marathon – this was Tina’s first marathon. Two days later I waved Brian Chapman off on a gruelling 300 miles round cycle ride from TaxAid’s HQ in Kennington to Tax Help’s in Bridport – and back again. And a week later, over 55 people walked in support of BTG on the London Legal Walk, itself a landmark event in the support of people in poverty. Huge thanks to all of you.

And finally a request. This year, fund raising is proving more challenging (the experience of many charities). We are therefore launching a special appeal and have prepared a community fund-raising pack for people who want to hold events. If you can help by organising an event in your firm or by donating we would be delighted – and it would make a huge difference.

Thank you so much for your support.

Stephen Banyard
Chair, Bridge the Gap

Supporting learning disabled people with their tax

How people with learning disability or difficulty face the greatest challenges with tax

As a charity, we support those who are vulnerable whether as a result of financial poverty or other factors and one of those factors is disability.  Nearly half of all people in poverty are either disabled or live with a disabled person. 4 million people with disabilities in the UK are living in poverty, and 7 million are either living with a disability or with someone who is disabled.[1]

In the UK, there are 1.5 million people with a learning disability, of which in 2019/20 only 4.8% of women with a learning disability and 6.2% of men were in paid employment.[2] 

Yet we have a high incidence of learning disability or difficulty on our helplines.

Some of the most common learning disabilities and difficulties are Dyslexia, ADHD and ADD, Dyspraxia, Dysgraphia, processing difficulties and Dyscalculia. These difficulties can lead to attention problems, memory issues, impaired reading and/or writing, problems with maths and problem solving, poor organisational skills, difficulty with following directions or telling time, lack of fine motor skills or specific learning difficulty ( SpLD) which causes issues with particular parts of learning.[3]  These issues typically contribute to the low employment rates, for example, people with autism have one of the lowest employment rates.[4]

I’m sure tax experts can imagine the huge hurdles those with learning difficulties face with their tax on reading this list of cognitive challenges. At TaxAid and Tax Help we are able to make comparatively simple interventions to transform the tax outcomes of those with learning disabilities and difficulties.

As an example, we were able to help Tony with some simple understanding of his PAYE situation, allowing us to advocate on his behalf. Tony had always struggled with dyslexia, but had other difficulties with COPD, heart disease and peripheral vascular disease. He contacted us in June 2021 as he had received a letter showing a tax underpayment of £246 for the tax year 2019/20. This was a complete surprise. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do or why he had received this demand.

The underpayment was due to a coding error, because he had received his pension and had ongoing PAYE employment. When his pension had started no code had been issued in respect of  his ongoing employment and as a result his employer continued to use his code from the previous year, meaning that he had underpaid his tax in the year his pension started. As this error on his code continued into 2020/21 it meant that his tax for the year 2020/21 would be underpaid and the error continued in 2021/22. Tony had a low income and was unable to pay the tax  underpayment..

 Tax Help made an appeal on the grounds of hardship  due to Tony’s vulnerability and low income. HMRC agreed that, taking into account Tony’s personal circumstances, they would not look to collect his underpayment.  HMRC also agreed this approach for the underpayment that arose in 2020/21 and Tax Help  ensured that Tony’s codes for 2021/22 were correct so that he did not have to worry about this any more. This is a simple fix for a simple coding error, but for Tony it was transformational, because the paperwork and terminology was impenetrable and he couldn’t pay. 

Life can be challenging for people in the UK living with learning disabilities and difficulties, and from this, we can see why living with a learning disability can cause even the simplest tax problems to become insurmountable. When people call our helpline service we often find that tax is not their only problem, and other aspects of life can lead to tax problems and debts can pile up, causing stress and sleepless nights. We are able to offer patient, gentle support to help alleviate the tax anxiety in these already anxious lives.

Our helpline service is a vital way for us to provide help to people in poverty who are dealing with tax problems, including a disproportionate percentage who have learning disabilities or difficulties. Every donation we receive enables us to improve our service, operate the phone lines, work cases, and ensure that more people know we are here. We don’t want anyone to struggle through tax problems alone as are here and ready to help them thanks to your support.

Working with students at the Scottish Tax Clinic

These are the brilliant students who will be taking part in our Scottish Tax Clinic. This has been set up in partnership with the University of Edinburgh Law School, enabling their students to get real-world experience whilst under the supervision of our professional tax advisors. This initiative also allows the students to provide a vital service to their local community through the pro bono tax clinic. This clinic is the first of its kind in Scotland and will be taking Scottish calls from our helpline when the clinic is running on Fridays between 9am – 4pm.

Three minute interview with Sir Edward Troup

1. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

My law career turned to tax in 1980 and I spent over 20 years in private practice and 15 years in HM Treasury and HMRC. I was fortunate enough to lead the tax teams in the Treasury and to end up as Chair of HMRC, so I’ve seen tax from the perspective of the adviser, the policymaker and the tax collector. It would be hard to think of a more varied – and enjoyable – career to be had in tax.

Since I retired from HMRC in 2018 I’ve stayed involved in tax – consulting, commenting, complaining and cajoling others to make things better.  And of course finding time to enjoy myself, travel and volunteer with various charities. I’m currently working with a charity supporting Afghan refugees in the UK, as well as, of course, the tax charities. 

2. Why are you supporting BTG?

Tax has not just provided me with a varied and fascinating career, I’ve also found it huge fun. But I know that for many people tax is not much fun at all. And for some of the most vulnerable and least well-off in society – and for those whom life has suddenly dealt a rough hand – it can overwhelm to the point of despair and breakdown. So I have tried to use my enthusiasm – and some of my skills – in giving back some of what I’ve learned – and earned – during my own career. 

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

I’m currently working with some of my old colleagues from the world of law talking about the great work the charities do and raising awareness that hard law and hardship often go hand in hand. I contribute to the charities myself and I ask every tax practitioner I meet why they don’t do the same. The excuses would fill a book, but rarely stand up to my forensic challenge! There are so many worthy charities out there, but only tax professionals really understand how much the tax charities are needed. 

4. What do you like best about fundraising?

It’s been a great opportunity to catch up with tax colleagues (old and new) and evangelise on behalf of the charities.  And, of course, it gives me a chance to have a good moan about the terrible state of the tax system and how things have gone downhill since I was younger!

5. What’s the worst part?

Not getting a reply to one of my well-crafted emails. (If any reader is sitting on an unanswered email from me, it’s not too late to redeem yourself.)

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

Go beyond what you’re comfortable doing and keep doing it. It’s worth it. 

Brian Chapman: From London to Bridport and back again

I have been a supporter of the BTG campaign for several years and was delighted to become a trustee of the Tax Help charity earlier this year. One of my passions has always been cycling and when I mentioned this to Penny Hamilton, chair of Tax Help, she suggested I do a sponsored ride to raise funds for the campaign. To begin with, I played this down, but the seed of an idea was planted and quite soon began to germinate!

I then wondered, how can I do a ride that is challenging enough to inspire donations while at the same time having some kind of tax “theme”? One day the idea struck me of riding between the offices of the two charities, one in London and the other in Dorset. Google maps told me this was around 150 miles. I figured that roughly I could manage around 75 miles a day so decided to cycle there and back over 4 days. The die was cast!

I wanted to get the ride done before the clocks changed so chose the first week in October. When I was doing the thinking for this, the weather was lovely (remember those warm September days?). As the ride approached it turned to sunshine and (heavy) showers and my mood darkened accordingly! I also developed a cold in the week before the ride so was unable to train properly.

On the day, it poured with rain during the night but by 7.15am when I left home it had stopped so I just had to navigate the numerous puddles on the roads. Frustratingly a westerly wind had picked up and so the first two days I spent battling that which felt like permanently cycling uphill.

The first day was a massive challenge and, at times, I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew. I had planned a long first day so that my second would be shorter to arrive at the Tax Help offices in good time to meet a few of the staff. The long day turned into a mammoth 118 miles and nearly 11 hours in the saddle.

I got lost a couple of times and ended the day riding down apparently scenic country lanes in the pitch black with a rapidly fading front light. I was very relieved to see the street lights of Salisbury at around 8.40 pm.

The next two days involved cycling through some beautiful parts of the country. Quiet country lanes and some blue skies. One very steep hill just outside of Bridport which I couldn’t plan around. Lots of tractors and other evidence of farming.

It was lovely to meet with a few of the Tax Help staff and just as lovely to then meet with a few of the TaxAid staff on my return to London at the end of the 4 days. Purple balloons and
bunting waiting for me was very touching!

I was really pleased to have completed the ride with no mishaps and, to date, have had nearly 100 donations totalling around £4,500 (£5,500 including gift aid).

Lizzi Welch tells us about her work with Aviva

Tax Help for Older people and Aviva have been working together for more than five years to allow Policy holders access to tax advice that is tailored to their specific circumstances.

I took over the role of liaising with Aviva almost two years ago and this is how it works. Aviva refer clients to TaxHelp either through dialling the direct line number, by warm hand over, email or through our general contact phone number.

All the tax trained staff are able to advise the tax position with regard to pension flexibility so that the client can understand how much tax they will pay and when. We explain how the pension is taxed initially and help calculate the actual amount of tax due .Following on from this we can advise whether a tax refund is due and how to claim it. We assist in the completion of the tax refund claim forms P55 P53z and P53

TaxHelp advise on the tax implications of larger incomes , how it may affect the marriage allowance and 0% savings allowance , the high income child benefit charge  the abatement of personal allowances and whether completing a tax return is appropriate .We also look at the tax efficiency of taking a pension over 2 or more years

Our advice is not limited to tax on pensions, we can check the clients other entitlements such as marriage allowance and blind person’s allowance. We assess the client’s needs and where they fit our criteria to do so, we will offer face to face or telephone appointments if needed

Where the issues Aviva client have are beyond are remit, we signpost them to where they can obtain the information they are seeking.

Aviva also have a dedicated TaxHelp landing page on their websites where clients can find a contact us email form and the direct dial numbers.

Every month myself and Gail Mackie from TaxHelp have a catch up meeting with Aviva , to review the call numbers, how the clients have been referred, the trends and the very important verbal feedback. Ahead of each meeting TaxHelp supply details of “end to end journeys “that two of the Aviva clients have experienced from when they are first referred to TaxHelp.

Thank you for taking the time to read our November Newsletter.

You can download the PDF version of this newsletter using the download link below.