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WH Smith’s Bad Tax Advice

WH Smith’s Bad Tax Advice

High street retail giant WHSmith has been forced to pull a ‘do-it-yourself’ tax return guide from its shelves after an eagle-eyed accounting employee spotted it was based on the rules for 2014-2015.

The Tax Return Organiser, on sale at WHSmith’s until 31st August, was a 2014 guide offered ‘tax-saving tips to reduce your tax bill’ and promised to save potential purchasers money on accountancy fees.

However, Phil Hall, head of public affairs and public policy at the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), clocked the book on sale for £24.99 at WHSmith’s Sevenoaks store this weekend and took the shop to task on Social Media.

Bad Tax Advice

“Selling the public, a DIY self-assessment kit that’s five years out of date beggars belief. There’s been various tax changes since then, not least numerous changes to the annual allowance, so any member of the public using these could find themselves getting into a real mess, and potentially facing an HMRC fine as a result.”

“I’ve brought this issue to WHSmith’s attention and am pleased they have agreed to withdraw these from sale as a matter of urgency. If a member of the public needs help with their Tax Return I’d suggest going to a suitably qualified professional accountant.”

Phil Hall.

The implications for any unsuspecting member of the public who has purchased and relied on this out-of-date self-help book are potentially serious. HMRC can and often do levy fines for Returns incorrectly completed.

WHSmith’s response

In a statement, WHSmith said it was removing the offending book from its stock system at once and claimed that it had been on sale “in error”. “We take our responsibility for the products we sell very seriously,” the statement continued, “and we are removing this product from sale immediately.”

The store also confirmed that it would be investigating whether the sale was a one-off at its Sevenoaks Store, or if the book had been available elsewhere. I can help them with that as the feedback on an accountant’s forum that I belong to would suggest that the book was widely available all over the country.

Have WHSmith now sorted out the problem?

Well the ‘Tax Return Organiser’ guide is presently not listed on the WHSmith website but instead you are offered the intriguingly titled ‘All You Wanted to Know About Filing Tax Returns’.

Problem sorted you might think, but a modicum of research with the help of Ms, Google will quickly demonstrate that this alternate offering, is also out of date.

Bad tax advice, What can you do?

I appreciate that costs are critical to many small businesses but buying a Do-It-Yourself guide to completing your Tax Return rather than engaging an accountant, is not a sensible cost saving measure.

For very small businesses, accountancy fees can be as low as £150 to get your Tax Return completed and submitted to HMRC. So once you deduct the cost of one of these guides, the net amount is a small price to pay for a professional job and as important, your own peace of mind.

Image of David Jones Shrewsbury Accountant and Founder of Morgan Jones

If you would like more detailed information on some aspect of UK Tax, send me an e-mail and I’ll be pleased to advise further.