Highlighting how practitioners can make a real difference via volunteering.
We know that many of our practitioners undertake voluntary work. Gary Millner – CEO of Tax Help for Older People and TaxAid – highlights some of the excellent work these charities undertake. We firmly encourage you to consider getting involved as a volunteer.
Have you ever thought of volunteering using your professional tax skills? Over 35 ACCA members volunteer for TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People, two tax charities which provide tax advice to people on low incomes – people who are in crisis with their tax, and with nowhere else to turn.
Who do they help?
Receiving an unexpected tax bill is a nightmare for anyone, but if you can’t afford professional advice because you’re on a very low income, where do you go? The people who the tax charities see have nowhere else to turn. Let’s meet George.
George is 96 and a widower. He was distressed and confused when he came to Tax Help for Older People – he had a tax bill of £2,500 and couldn’t understand how it had arisen. The case was passed to a local volunteer who visited George and found that he had been given the married couples allowance for several years after his wife had died and he was no longer eligible for the allowance. On looking further, he found that HMRC had been told of the death of his wife at the correct time, but HMRC had not used the information that had been correctly and timeously provided. Therefore an ESC A19 claim was submitted and HMRC accepted it had not made proper use of the information at the right time. The assessments and penalties were cancelled and George was enormously relieved.
Advice changes lives
Tax Help for Older People and its sister charity TaxAid helped 21,000 people last year – people like George who desperately needed tax advice but couldn’t afford to pay for it. They provide advice, where needed acting for the client, and put people back on their feet. In effect they provide the profession’s safety net for vulnerable people in crisis with their tax.
Tax Help for Older People assists the over 60s; TaxAid focuses on working age people. The two charities work closely together.
Both help their clients by using a mixture of permanent staff and volunteers. Helping people like George can be very rewarding – our clients are almost always in great distress when they find us and many are in crisis. The help we give makes a huge difference, resolving the tax issue and allowing them to get on with their lives.
There are three types of volunteering opportunities:
volunteers for Tax Help for Older People are spread around the country. They help mainly retired people, through face-to-face interviews either in the client’s home or at an Age Concern office or similar. The work load varies depending on local need
TaxAid volunteers may meet clients for interviews in their London office. Volunteers usually do a minimum of seven hours a month
alternatively, TaxAid volunteers work on TaxAid’s telephone helpline, acting as the client’s first point of contact and trying to either solve their problem or arrange for follow up action. These volunteers usually do a minimum of two three-hour sessions a month.
All volunteers need to have two years’ practical experience. The charities provide training – both in the specialised tax knowledge needed and in handling vulnerable clients - and periodic updates.
Case studies – could these be you?
Sheila Heron of Quantum Accountancy Services Ltd is an ACCA member who says: ‘I really enjoy volunteering with Tax Help for Older People. I have visited the clients in their homes and also at the local Age Concern offices. They tend to be quite vulnerable and are always very worried about their tax. After looking through their paperwork I can usually see the problem and identify the best way to solve it. This puts their minds at rest and generally the issue can be sorted quickly. Those I have helped have always been very grateful and I find being able to help vulnerable people in this way is very rewarding.’
David McCauley, now retired, was a member of ACCA and has been a Tax Help volunteer since 2008. As well as helping with clients, he also helps in arranging events such as the Over-55s roadshows, where people can be alerted to the help available. He says: ‘Over the years, I have helped many clients, including widows suddenly having to cope with a tax system they often find very difficult. It’s given me a lot of satisfaction to help resolve their problems and bring relief to their worries. I’ve recently dealt with several worldwide disclosure clients and this has caused a lot of anxieties which we are alleviating. It’s important to highlight the stalwart support of Head Office, both personal and technical, which enables us to operate as true professionals.’
If this article has inspired you to find out more, it’s simple: