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HMRC launches new helpline and improved tax services for the bereaved

HMRC is to improve the quality of its contact processes and provide extra support for those who have suffered bereavement from this month, it has confirmed.

A dedicated team of advisers will staff a telephone helpline and an address box for people who need to contact HMRC about Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Self-Assessment matters regarding deceased taxpayers.

The single point of contact is to run alongside simplified guidance and letters to taxpayers in order to simplify the process following bereavements.

The R27 - the main form which bereaved members must use to finalise the tax affairs of anyone who has died - has also been redesigned so that it is easier to complete, following feedback from customers and tax specialists.

It allows individuals to nominate a personal representative, such as an executor or administrator, to act on their behalf. The details of surviving spouses or civil partners can also be provided on the form, enabling HMRC to take action to review their tax affairs at the earliest opportunity. Explanatory notes have also been created to help customers fill in the form.

Announcing the changes, acting director general of personal tax for HMRC, Stephen Banyard, acknowledged that bereavement was an especially difficult and stressful time for family members, particularly when settling tax matters.

"We want to settle the estates of customers who have died as easily and sensitively as possible," he said.

"HMRC has been working closely with the voluntary sector and customers to improve the experience when dealing with the department after someone has died."

"It is vital that we communicate sensitively with people who have suffered bereavement. Our helpline, as well as the other changes that we will introduce over the next two years, will help us to do that."

The improved service follows a report by the House of Commons Treasury Committee last year which, working with HMRC officials, tax professionals and tax charities, established that HMRC should improve its handling of bereavement tax issues.

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, that has campaigned for a change to the ways HMRC deals with bereaved individuals, welcomed the 'positive steps'.

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