January is certainly not a slow month in the tax world! The countdown is on for the HMRC deadline to submit self-assessment tax returns on 31 January.

Over the past few months, individuals required to submit self-assessment tax returns (and deputyship teams) have been collating the necessary information and documentation to prepare their tax returns. Most of whom may have instructed Professional Accountants to assist with the process. This is to ensure they are paying the right amount of tax due, claiming any allowances available and reclaiming any overpaid tax. Especially as the sums due or owed could significantly impact on the financial ability and stability of individuals.

This can be a laborious task. Understanding the UK tax system can be a challenge for most of us with full mental capacity. Can you imagine what it is like for the most vulnerable members of our society?

In particular, those lacking mental capacity, with limited support networks, with no access to the internet and who simply will not/cannot engage (due to geographical and/or language barriers) with the tax process at all.

HMRC have recognised this problem and announced on 1 October 2018, a two stage strategy.

  1. Stage 1: to allocate a guaranteed £1.6 million over the next tax year 6 April 2019 to 5 April 2020 to the voluntary and community sector to support customers who need additional help to both understand and comply with their tax obligations and who cannot afford to pay for support and advice or who are digitally excluded.

Organisations within the voluntary and community sector were invited to submit bids to HMRC to request funding of between £10,000 and £450,000 with a maximum threshold set at 50% of the organisation’s turnover.

From April 2019, those organisations who’s funding bid has been approved will be able to use their financial resources to reach out to vulnerable members of society to offer this tax help and support.

  1. Stage 2: from 2020 to develop a longer term strategy, working with the voluntary and community sector to provide the best support possible for customers that need extra help.

The grants are aimed at those displaying one or more of the following characteristics:

  • those experiencing difficulties accessing HMRC services, due to illness, disability or digital exclusion;
  • those lacking confidence, and are overly worried about making mistakes or are new to HMRC services;
  • those lacking the ability to deal with tasks, for example, due to learning difficulties, memory problems, lack of language skills to be able to understand the tax system, complex working situations or several income strands AND;
  • those with mental health issues or are suffering extreme distress through life events, such as bereavement or the breakdown of a relationship

Let us hope these measures bring about the desired changes and support quickly for our most vulnerable members of society.