Retiree, 83, ticks wrong box on tax return and is hounded by HMRC for £5,541

An 83 year-old who “ticked the wrong box” on a self-assessment tax return received a letter from HMRC requesting immediate payment of £5,541 for unpaid National Insurance contributions from the Seventies and Eighties. The claim went back to a period between 1978 and 1994.

The case emerged in the wake of disclosure by Telegraph Money that 1.7 million pensioners continue to face the arduous task of filling in a tax return every year – with 275,000 of those above the age of 80. Campaigners say it highlights the complexities and difficulties in Britain’s tax system, and the need for more elderly – often lower-income – taxpayers to be exempt from filing returns.

Anne Funnell, 83, has been completing a tax return for many years. But an accidental slip on her latest submission resulted in the unexpected request for payment.

The retired artist, who lives near Norwich, described the letter as threatening. “It requested more than £5,000 and it says: ‘this is due immediately. If you pay late or don’t pay you may lose your right to a state pension and benefits, and a private debt collecting agency may come to your home’.

“I regard that as threatening and menacing. It’s as near to blackmail as you can get.”

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