Welcome to our guide for disabled people and carers
The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group is not a disability organisation and does not seek to provide general advice to disabled people. Our brief is to focus on tax and related benefit matters as they affect the unrepresented, including disabled people, on low incomes.
We hope that this section will prove helpful in understanding and accessing tax and related benefits to those who have a disability or are their parent or carer or someone who is assisting them.
Contacting and communicating with HMRC
One significant barrier that many of those who have a disability may face is effectively communicating with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) either by phone or face to face. In all communications with HMRC you should tell them about any access needs that you may have.
The services that HMRC provide for those with particular needs include:
- Textphone and text relay for those who have a hearing or speech impairment
- Specialist services and equipment at their Enquiry Centres to benefit those with hearing or visual impairment
- Several alternative formats for their forms, leaflets and other guidance and information
- Wheelchair access to most Enquiry Centres or an alternative arrangement if there is not
- Home visits in certain circumstances
- Help with completing forms or returns if you have difficulty reading or writing
Further details of all the above can be here found on the HMRC website. However before visiting any Enquiry Centre, it is advisable to check their opening hours and also ensure that any special service you need is available. If you need to speak to an adviser you will normally need to pre-book an appointment.
HMRC announced in March 2012 that they are launching a new support service that will provide mobile, one to one support in convenient places such as a person’s home or business. A pilot to test the new services will run from 3 June 2013 to 31 October 2013 in the North East. HMRC are therefore planning to close their Enquiry Centre network during 2014, starting with a pilot closing a number of offices in the North East (Alnwick, Bishop Auckland, Bridlington, Hexham, Darlington, Durham, Middlesbrough, Morpeth, Newcastle, Scarborough, Stockton, Sunderland and York).
If you are trying to assist someone with a disability and need to telephone HMRC on their behalf, you need to be aware of the following points. If you just need to ask for a form or you are making a general enquiry, you will not need to give any proof of identity.
If however you need to discuss their tax or tax credit affairs, it gets a little more complicated. The person you want to speak about ideally should be with you and be able to give HMRC their permission over the phone for you to speak to them, but they will need to answer some questions relating to personal details and tax affairs such as address, date of birth, NI number and tax reference. Also in the tax credit part of HMRC they have introduced more rigorous identification processes which can require knowledge of information held by credit agencies.
If this process is too difficult or if you are going to be helping the person with disabilities over a long period, it may be better to send a letter to HMRC explaining the situation, giving full details including tax/tax credit references for the person you are assisting, and getting them to give a signed authority for you to deal with their affairs. After this has been logged you will need to refer to that letter when phoning the tax or tax credit office, although you may still be required to establish your own identity.
If you have been officially appointed to deal with their affairs then the legal document should be sent to HMRC so that your appointment can be registered on their records.
What you can find in the Disabled people and carers section of our website
Tax matters generally can be complicated, and the special rules for disabled people, or for those who care for them, are even more so.
We start by looking at the particular VAT regimes which can provide lower costs when you are Buying goods and services.
In our section on Working we explain some of the special tax-related rules which have been introduced to support disabled people in work. Following that section we cover things which it may be helpful for those Employing a disabled person to understand.
For some years, we have been monitoring the problems for disabled people who ‘employ’ their carers with funds provided by way of direct payments from a local authority, the Independent Living Fund or a health trust. We give guidance in our section on Independent living – direct payments.
There are many types of carers of disabled people, some who receive state support for their caring responsibilities and some who do not. We try to explain how the tax and tax credit system works when you are Caring for someone.
Disabled children are targeted for support in a number of circumstances, but it is not always clear how rules interact.
We have campaigned for some years to have the definitions of disability widened and modernised in the tax system so that more people might have the advantage of special reliefs given to Trusts for disabled people. Changes to the definition are anticipated in 2013 and we will keep you updated on this.
We wanted to create a quick summary of the main reliefs available across the broad spectrum of taxes and benefits and you will find this in our Tax and benefits checklist for disabled people.
Sometimes if you do not agree with a decision by HMRC or you have been badly treated, you will want to appeal or complain and our section Appeals and complaints will help you to do that.
If you need a quick summary of current tax and national insurance rates we have set these out in Tax and NIC rates .
Sometimes it is helpful to have the computer do the hard work and provide you with a calculation of some sort so we scour the internet for those we think might be most helpful and give descriptions in our Calculators section.
We have also included a section on Council tax and business rates outlining the rules and looking at the special reliefs available.
Finally, if you do not think we have covered what you wanted to know, or you would like to tell us of your experiences so that we might learn and try to get things changed then please do contact us.
Throughout this site we can only offer general guidance on tax topics and you should always obtain specific advice before taking any action. You can find out where to get specialist help in our getting help section.