'I've paid tax for decades but HMRC won't accept my identity online – I’m at my wits’ end’

Couple look worried while on phone in front of laptop

A man has said he is struggling to sign up to create a Personal Tax Account with HMRC

Jessica Sheldon

By Jessica Sheldon

Published: 08/06/2024

- 04:00

Updated: 08/06/2024

- 10:28

A pensioner has told GB News he is at his "wits' end" with HMRC following repeated attempts to set up his Personal Tax Account

A pensioner has been left feeling like an "undesirable alien" after HMRC refused to accept his identity so he could use the department's digital services.

Jim, 77, from Dumfries, Scotland, received a letter from HMRC because improved interest rates offered on his savings accounts meant the interest he earned breached the tax-free allowance.

HMRC sent him a letter informing him his tax code was being adjusted to take the tax owed and that he could set up a Personal Tax Account online to access his tax records.

Jim is perfectly happy to go online but says he is unable to set up an account because he cannot prove his identity on the system.

There are various ways to provide evidence to access the service, but Jim has found himself in a catch-22 situation as he cannot submit his document without having a Personal Tax Account.

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HMRC says people can verify their identity by providing two forms of evidence from the following list, where available:

  • A valid UK passport
  • A UK driving licence issued by the DVLA, or DVA in Northern Ireland
  • A payslip from the last three months or a P60 from employer for the last tax year
  • Details of a tax credit claim if you made one
  • Details from a Self Assessment tax return if you made one
  • Information held on your credit record if you have one (such as loans, credit cards or mortgages).

Jim lives with complex health issues which means he can't travel, so he doesn't have a current passport.

He also no longer has a driving licence due to health reasons.

Another way to prove identity for a PTA is via information held on one's credit record, but Jim says he doesn't have one as he doesn't have a loan, credit card or mortgage.

He could use a P60, which Jim does have, but he says he can't find a way to submit it without having a personal tax account.

“My complaint isn’t about paying the tax – it's about getting into this account,” he told GB News.

Jim says he tried to call HMRC several times but encountered long call-waiting times and couldn’t get through to a member of staff.

Nearly two-thirds of taxpayers were forced to wait more than 10 minutes to speak to an HMRC adviser on the phone, MPs warned in February this year.

Customers spent a collective 798 years - equating to around seven million hours - waiting to speak with HMRC in 2022/23 - more than double the time spent waiting in 2019/20, a spending watchdog warned last month.

A new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) said: "HMRC’s telephone and correspondence services have been falling below the expected service levels for too long and HMRC has not achieved planned efficiencies."

Jim said: “I have been a continuous, uninterrupted UK taxpayer since September 1965, and I am still paying tax now.

“I am not in any way disputing their assessments at all, it's just that I cannot access any of my records and information. I feel like an undesirable alien.”

He added: “I have found HMRC totally unhelpful dealing with an infirm and elderly person. I think it smacks of ageism.”

While Jim wants to check his tax account out of interest, he is worried about others who need to access their account but can’t log in or get through on the phonelines.

“More and more people are having to, sometimes against their will, move onto these platforms.

“I’m a technical person, but there are going to be a lot of people who can’t do that and they’re going to be basically cut-off.

“If they can’t handle these digital portals, and you can’t get any response on the phone, it’s virtually impossible.”

HMRC says customers can alternatively use the ID Check app, which lets customers prove their identity by using the camera on their mobile to confirm a match with either their UK driving licence, ePassport or biometric residence permit.

To use the app, a person needs to have a working camera on their device, be using the Chrome browser if they’re on an Android phone, or if they’re on an iPhone, have an iPhone 7 or above to prove their identity.


Man looks worried while on phone in front of laptop

HMRC says customers can alternatively use the ID Check app


However, this is of no use to Jim, who is still struggling to log in. He has also contacted his MP who wrote to HMRC about the issue, but he's still had no luck in accessing his account.

He said: “The website is technically perfect. It works exactly as it should do, but I can’t penetrate it to get my information.”

An HMRC spokesperson said: “We’re reaching out to Jim to see if he has the ID required to set up a Personal Tax Account. However, our records show he’s paying the tax he owes via his tax code.

“Before sharing any personal data with a customer online we have a duty to establish their identity. We have to balance making this journey as straightforward as we can, while setting the bar high enough to protect people from fraud.

“The vast majority of people can and do engage with us online successfully, but we will always have services in place for those who can’t.”

Responding to the NAO's report, an HMRC spokesperson said: “While customer service standards on our phone lines are still not where we want them to be, we’re making strong progress in our efforts to improve our customer service and additional funding has been confirmed by the Government this week.

“Millions more people used our highly-rated online services last year – saving them waiting on the phone and freeing up our advisers to deal with those people who need extra support.

“We continue to encourage people to deal with us online or via the app where they can and we are working to provide even better, easier and always-available online services. But, as we have recognised, these changes need to happen at a speed and in ways that our customers are comfortable with.”

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