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bigduckontax, Accountant
Category: Tax
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Can you tell me how long the tax man can chase you for a debt.

Customer Question

Can you tell me how long the tax man can chase you for a debt. its about 12 years old and most of the debt is fines for not paying which has added up to about £5000. I cant afford to pay it but the fines keep adding what can I do
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Tax
Expert:  bigduckontax replied 3 years ago.

Hello, I'm Keith and happy to help you with your question.

In England and Wales there is no limitation as to how far back HMRC can go to recover certain, but not necessarily all, tax debts. This is not the case elsewhere in the UK; for example in Scotland there is a twenty year limitation period. Here is the HMRC advice on the matter:

'In England and Wales only, the Limitation Act 1980 provides that recovery action for debts should commence within six years from the debt becoming payable. But Section 37(2) of the Act excludes proceedings for recovery of tax or duty and interest on tax or duty thus there is no time limit for those debts.

Other debts that are not tax, for example

  • contract settlements
  • tax credit overpayments
  • Child benefit overpayments
  • National Insurance Contributions
  • Statutory payment recoveries (Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay)
  • overpaid Child Trust Fund contributions
  • Student Loan repayments and
  • National Minimum Wage Act penalties

are subject to the Limitation Act, and action must be taken within six years “from the date on which the cause of action accrued”. In this context an action is the lodging of a complaint in the magistrates’ court, the issue of a county court claim form or the levying of distraint. In this same context the date on which the cause of action accrued is the original due date of the liability.

If an action is not taken within the time limit, it could be defended successfully on the grounds of limitation.'

Could you please advise how the debt arose originally? It would enable me to expand my answer.

So sorry to have to rain on your parade.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry not replied to you but couldn't find your answer on my computer but have now found it,

Expert:  bigduckontax replied 3 years ago.
Delighted to have been of assistance.
Please be so kind as to rate me if you have no further follow up questions.