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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Debt and return pursuit: PAYE: End of Year: underpayments, surcharge and interest: clerical process

Underpayment and interest pursuit

It is good debt management practice to co-ordinate as far as possible pursuit of other debts and returns an employer/contractor has.

Underpayments and Part Scheme processed signal

Any underpayment received by IDMS with a status of provisional from CIS (PSC & XP schemes only) see DMBM524000 or where a P35 is outstanding (PSC schemes only) will show a signal of ‘Part scheme processed’ (on Work Item Details - signals). This is to indicate that the underpayment may be subject to amendment once all returns have been received and processed. You can collect these underpayments but proceed with caution if employer is a Limited Company.

Limited Companies - PSC schemes only

Limited Companies can claim back on their P35 any CIS deductions they suffer as a subcontractor. If their CIS returns are processed on BROCS first, this can give rise to an underpayment that could be settled in part or entirely once their P35 is processed. In these cases, providing they have submitted their P35, you should exercise leniency with underpayments created from CIS returns only.

Process map

See DMPM3565 (PDF 79KB).

Underpayment disputes

Disputes fall into two broad categories and you will need to establish whether this relates to payments made or to the charge (P228 or CIS). Also when dealing with underpayment disputes, you must always ask employers to pay any amount not under dispute as end of year interest will continue to be charged on this until paid.

Payment disputes

Payment disputes are usually due to a payment not being received or not being allocated correctly.

Charge disputes

The first thing to establish with the employer/contractor is whether they made an error on their return.

Employer/contractor error

It is the responsibility of the employer/contractor to correct any error they made and until they do so, any underpayment remains payable. You can however exercise discretion for a short period to allow them to rectify matters. For errors on:

PAYE returns - Employers should submit an amended return. An amended return should amend not replace an earlier return. For example if original return showed £100 tax but this should have been £80, the amended return will be for minus £20 so the two added together equal the correct amount.

CIS returns - Contractors should telephone CIS helpline on 0300 200 3210 to make any amendments.

No employer/contractor error

If the employer/contractor maintains that amounts on their PAYE or CIS returns do not equal the charge, you should not pursue the amount in dispute, instead ask for payment of any balance.

You should also establish

  • which part of the charge is in dispute (ie Tax, NIC, Student loan deductions, CIS amount, statutory payments etc)
  • the correct figure(s)

and for PAYE returns only

  • how the return was submitted - Internet/Electronic Data Interface (EDI) /Third party (agent/payroll bureau).

PAYE returns

If return was submitted

  • on paper, refer query to relevant Customer Operations office
  • online, refer query to Online Services Helpdesk on 0300 200 3600.

CIS returns

Contractors should telephone CIS helpline on 0300 200 3210 to arrange necessary amendments.

Recovery of underpayment from employee or director

An underpayment may be recovered from an employee or director if HMRC are satisfied that

  • The employer took reasonable care to comply with the PAYE regulations, and the failure to deduct sufficient Tax/NIC from the employee was due to an error made in good faith, or that
  • The employee received payments (i.e. wages / salary / bonus etc) knowing that the employer had wilfully failed to deduct sufficient Tax/NIC from the payments.

NIC collection activity - limitations (time barring)

NIC debts that are older than six years ‘from the date on which the cause of action accrued’ (ie the statutory due date of the liability) are not enforceable.

The Limitation Act 1980 advises that we can not enforce NIC debts that are older than six years, unless within the six years the employer or agent acknowledges that the NIC is due. If they do, HRMC maintain that the six year limit starts from the date that the debt was acknowledged.

For more information on NICs: Limitation: Application of Limitation Act 1980 see DMBM527120.