The mistake by HMRC in calculating workers PAYE contributions is predicted to affect 5.7 million people. Of these 4.3m people paid too much tax and 1.4 million allegedly paid too little.
The Government is demanding that these 'under-payers' owe about £2bn, or £1,428 each on average. To compound this error the UK's top tax official (HM Revenue and Customs Permanent Secretary Dave Hartnett) said he "saw no need" to apologise as tax reconciliation was a routine measure. Rather than taking a conciliatory line he foresaw a demand for immediate payment from those with large liabilities and punitive fines for those who can't meet those demands.
Because the problem didn't arise from an IT 'error' but from a new complicated system he felt no apology was required.
Trade Union Solidarity says however that whether it was a human, mechanical, electronic or 'system' error does not compensate those workers who, through no fault of their own will be saddled with large tax demands. The monies that were deducted incorrectly may be quite small each month/week but in total may be significant.
If private industry made these mistakes they would have to put it down to experience and attempt to improve their systems. It seems the HMRC are almost a law unto themselves. They already have more powers of entry and interference in workers private lives than most agencies. Humility is not one of their virtues.
Solidarity General Secretary Patrick Harrington said "I believe that in such circumstances the state should be penalised for their mistakes. They are quite unforgiving when chasing for monies. I suggest they forfeit 50% of any workers tax underpayments and institute repayment of the balance over at least one year. Many large private organisations pay for their mistakes e.g. rail timetable failures. The Coalition talks a lot about becoming more efficient. If the state begins to be punished for its errors their agencies are more likely to improve their efficiency since losses will come out of their budget".