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Millions confronted by tax jargon on HMRC site

New Which? jargon-busting tax calculator can help

frustrated woman stares at her computer screen

Four in 10 people who fill in their tax return online struggle with jargon on the HMRC website, according to Which? research. 

In a new Which? survey of people who’d done an online return in the last two years, 38% said they found jargon on the HMRC website was confusing.

In the survey – carried out in the run-up to the self-assessment deadline of 31 January – a third (32%) of respondents found the tax form difficult to complete.

And four in 10 (39%) said they needed to use guidance and information from sources other than HMRC to help complete their tax return.

Which? launches new tax calculator

Which? believes it’s possible to explain tax in plain language, and has launched a jargon-busting tax calculator to help anyone who needs to fill in a tax return. The calculator is free to use and explains key rules on allowances and deductions. 

The guidance draws on years of experience of the Which? Money Helpline experts, who have helped thousands of people understand tax rules and the allowances to which they’re entitled.

Which? Money editor Gareth Shaw said: ‘Many people dread completing their tax return and put it off even though they know they risk penalties. 

‘Our new free-to-use online tax calculator will help make completing a tax return less taxing, as it offers guidance for those who struggle with complex forms and confusing jargon.’

Find out more: HMRC helpline cuts off a third of calls – a previous Which? investigation

Tax jargon on the HMRC website

Examples of confusing language that Which? found among the HMRC website help notes include: ‘When you sell an item on which you have claimed capital allowances, deduct the amount you received for it (the sale proceeds) up to the cost of the item from the pool value brought forward or cost. Likewise, if you give away or no longer use an item for business purposes, deduct the current market value of the item (up to its original cost) from the pool value or cost. If the sale proceeds or the market value of the item is more than the unrelieved balance in the pool value, the difference is called a “balancing charge” and is taxable. Enter the total of any balancing charges.’

In another example, relating to property, a help note headed ‘Period of grace election’, says: ‘If any property qualified as a furnished holiday letting property in 2012-13 but does not reach the occupation threshold in 2013-14, please select “Yes” from the drop-down menu otherwise, select “No”.’

Which? surveyed 2,120 members of the general public in December 2014, of whom 348 had completed a tax return online within the last two years. The data was weighted to represent the UK population.

More than 11 million people are expected to fill out a tax return by 31 January, and HMRC expects at least 9.5 million of these to submit online, via its website.

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