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  • Emma Walsh

Self-assessment: concern over fewer ways to pay tax

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

Campaigners have raised concerns over a ban imposed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on paying tax by credit card or via the Post Office.

About 11 million people complete a self-assessment tax return every year, with the deadline for online forms of 31 January approaching.

Many have to settle an income tax or capital gains tax bill.

Payments at the Post Office were banned in December and the credit card option will be cut from 13 January.

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) said that it was concerned that some people would struggle to find a way to pay in time, and that some could resort to taking out high-interest loans as they could not pay by credit card.

"Making payments may not be straightforward for some taxpayers, and we are keen to see that these changes are publicised as widely as possible," said Anne Fairpo, who chairs LITRG.

"If making the tax payment will cause hardship, we strongly recommend people contact HMRC as soon as possible, and certainly before the due date of payment, to discuss their case."

HMRC argues that letters have been sent as part of a marketing campaign signalling the changes.

Surcharge ban

Millions of people who have more than one source of income or are self-employed are required to file a tax return.

The tax due can still be paid by debit card, via a bank's BACS, CHAPS or Faster Payments system, or by setting up a direct debit.

Employed people who owe less than £3,000 on their tax bill can pay it through their subsequent PAYE system, but only if they submitted their return online by 30 December.

However, the credit card payment option - used in 454,000 cases in 2016-17 - has been withdrawn owing to imminent change in the law which bans surcharges on Visa, Mastercard and American Express payments

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has been charging up to 0.6% for payment by credit card, but would have had to foot the bill had it not banned this method of payment.

"It would be unfair to expect other taxpayers to pick up this cost," a spokesman for HMRC said.

The law change, prompting the change in the rules, comes just a few weeks before the self-assessment deadline.


The Transcash system, operated through the Post Office, was removed by operator Santander, the HMRC spokesman said.

Santander said Transcash had been replaced by a new electronic bill payment service, but that HMRC had decided not to adopt it.

HMRC has been running a relatively high-profile campaign to ensure people do not miss the deadline, potentially leaving them with a fine of at least £100.

The online and billboard adverts feature a man in the bath, being niggled by a duck. Instead of quacking, the duck repeats the word "tax".

The government is working on plans to introduce a points-based system for those who fail to submit their tax returns on time, rather than an automatic fine.


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