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Workers struggle to stay on top of tax admin tasks

by LLB Finance Reporter
21st Jun 23 12:03 pm

The latest research by finance specialists, The RIFT Group, has revealed technical jargon and dealing with complicated calculations are the two biggest challenges that many UK workers face when staying on top of life admin tasks such as their tax return. 

Life admin can be a headache for most but some find it more challenging than others. Across England it’s thought that 16% of adults score at the lowest level in literacy, while 24% score low in numeracy. In Wales, 12% of adults lack basic literacy skills, while in Scotland 27% experience challenges -due to their literacy skills. 

A survey of UK self employed workers, commissioned by The RIFT Group, found that just 34% of workers are completely confident when it comes to tackling life admin tasks such as their tax return.

When it comes to the biggest challenges they face, understanding the official jargon used by bodies such as HMRC ranked as the top issue. Making the required calculations was also a significant obstacle, along with writing any required responses. 

As a result of these challenges, 54% stated that it impacted their ability to keep on top of their life admin tasks. 

For those that struggled, this meant having to ask others for help to complete tasks such as their tax return, as well as taking a far longer time to complete them. Many also stated that they put off attempting such tasks and the struggle in completing them led them to feel overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated or angry. 

When asked specifically about the process of completing their tax affairs, 40% stated they found it a daunting task to undertake. 

No surprise then, that 41% utilised the professional help of a financial expert such as an accountant. However, as many as 56% stated they had never applied for a tax refund from HMRC, despite the average amount owed currently sitting at £1,444. 

A lack of awareness was the driving factor behind their lack to apply for a tax refund, followed by the fact that the process was too complicated and deterred them completely, while many were also unable to get in contact with HMRC to get the required information.

Despite these complications, HMRC has stated that those seeking a tax refund should do so directly rather than seeking the help of a tax refund agent. But one in five of those surveyed by The RIFT Group don’t agree with this advice and almost a quarter (23%) would prefer to pay a tax refund agent to ensure they receive the full refund owed to them. 

Bradley Post, MD of The RIFT Group, said, “Life admin can be a pain at the best of times, but for those who struggle with literacy or numeracy it can seem like an insurmountable obstacle, particularly those who are self employed and have to tackle the arduous task of submitting a tax return. 

“Unfortunately HMRC doesn’t make it easy and putting the complex calculations to one side, the official jargon used only makes the task all the harder and can seem like a foreign language at times. 

“So it’s no surprise that many of us opt for third party help when it comes to keeping our tax affairs in order, yet when it comes to securing a tax refund, HMRC have advised against the help of third party tax refund agents. 

“Unfortunately, the complex process and the inability to make contact with HMRC in order to obtain the required information is enough to deter many from claiming money they are rightfully owed.”

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