HMRC opens civil disorder hotline

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has set up a special helpline for those businesses affected by the riots that swept across several English cities.

HMRC has promised it will do all it can to help and will deal sympathetically with those firms that have suffered as a result of the disturbances.

The helpline is open from 8.00am to 8.00pm seven days a week and can be reached by calling 0845 366 1207.

Businesses and their agents can use the helpline to take advice on agreeing payment schedules for those who are unable to pay their tax bills due to short-term financial difficulties and for discussing practical solutions where businesses and individuals cannot meet their other obligations to HMRC (in cases, for instance, that have seen records have been lost or destroyed).

HMRC said that, whenever possible, there will be a review of any penalties imposed and that additional surcharges that would normally be triggered by missed deadlines will be withheld.

Callers are being advised to have their tax references ready - such as NI numbers, Unique Taxpayer References and VAT numbers - but that operators will be able to assist even if those details are not available.

The scheme will probably operate along the same lines as the Business Payment Support Service introduced in 2008 to help firms hit by the recession.

It is anticipated that the helpline will be up and running for months rather than just weeks.