Erik L. , London:
“This whole situation has been an ongoing nightmare for myself and my family for two years.
To frame the conversation, I previously ran a Ltd company as a contractor, working within IT in London.
However, with the introduction of IR35, and the total lack of clarity regarding our position in light of the legislation as it stood, running a company for a lone employee had become not only onerous, but potentially incredibly risky.
I looked for alternatives, and chose an umbrella that could both provide me the same form of financial return, but with the added support of a large company behind it; and the inferred support that such an organization brought with it.
As it was the use of the umbrella lasted only six months because, in 2008, the financial markets collapsed, leading to the still ongoing situation of working as hard as possible when the opportunity of a role presented itself, and then losing the hard earned money in various spells spent out of work as the industry continues it’s right-sizing, downsizing, or off-shoring routine.
Being self-employed I have the “pleasure” of both facing pressure on my income, along with a total lack of support should I lose everything; benefits are non-forthcoming for the self-employed.
I do not get, and therefore seldom take holiday, have no pension as those I did have were obliterated in the downturn, and am left with no savings on a regular basis when I consume them being out of work.
This is a situation I know, understand and accept.
Needless to say, receiving a notice of discovery, and a subsequent dispute around a large sum of money (incorrectly calculated, as it turned out), several years after filing correct tax returns with not a hint of issue from HMRC came as a shock.
It represented the financial destruction of my family; at the very least the loss of my home to come close to generating the required sum in 30 days.
I openly admit to bursting into tears in sheer panic.
However, I contacted my umbrella provider for the time, and they offered to assist and support me in dealing with HMRC; a fortunate position given a great many people have since found those companies wound up and closed.
We entered into a process of negotiation and dispute resolution with HMRC, and the payment was put on hold until an actual determination of there being anything owed was made. This situation is still ongoing.
With the introduction of APN’s however, any form of confidence in a system of fair resolution has been dragged from under our feet. I am now in the unenviable position of having a disputed bill which I can be forced to pay (and indeed will be) within 90 days, and absolutely no route for recourse in the matter.
I am left wondering how it is that a person can be punitively charged for the determination of a debt that has yet to be proven to exist – This strikes me as outrageous; essentially I am being determined guilty of a crime and charged despite no proof of wrongdoing.
In this case HMRC is able to decide I am guilty, determine the charge they intend to levy without proof, and prosecute me immediately before I am entitled to defend myself. The joke being they remove any financial ability for me to defend myself before I can even dispute the matter.
The only parallel I can think of would be that of charging someone with murder before any proof has been gathered, any judiciary involved and any ability for the accused to defend themselves provided. They are then summarily executed. Years later someone can actually prove the accused was not guilty, but by then the damage is done.
This situation is utterly galling not only because it appears to be such a breach of the basic tenets of the law (i.e.: innocent until proven guilty) but that it is likely to push me into financial penury and ultimately bankruptcy; meaning I can never essentially work as a self-employed individual again, nor gain a suitable employee role given the fact that I will have been declared a bankrupt.
I am in the position of trying to find anyone to offer me a private loan (feel free to attempt to get financing to pay a non-debt to HMRC) to pay a debt I haven’t been proven to owe, or become a ward of the state; bankrupt and requiring government assistance to school, feed and home my wife and child, potentially for the rest of my existence.”