Thursday, May 30, 2013

Apology after cafe owner received £1bn tax bill

A cafe owner was left stunned after receiving a tax bill for almost one billion pounds. Florence Coke, owner of Mama Flo’s in Gorton, Greater Manchester, told how she ‘nearly fell over’ when she opened the £979 million bill from the taxman. The 59-year-old said she was angered after HM Revenue and Customs threatened to seize her business assets if she didn’t pay up. Bosses at HMRC have since apologised for the blunder.

Ms Coke, who lives above the Caribbean cafe on Hyde Road, said she didn’t know what to do when the bill arrived. She added: “It frightened the hell out of me. This is my first time in business and I am naïve, I didn’t know where to turn. It really shook me up.” Ms Coke, who opened Mama Flo’s three years ago described how she received a bill from HMRC in March saying she owed £979,092,858.

The letter, signed by an HMRC debt collector, said: “If you do not pay or contact us, we can visit your premises in order to arrange for your assets to be sold by public auction.” Ms Coke immediately called HMRC, who said they would investigate the matter. She then had to return to Jamaica after her mother died and, while she was away, HMRC sent a letter apologising for the mistake – saying she actually owed a little less than £17,000. The café owner said she accepted the apology but added: “I’m still angry about it. I can’t believe someone in that office would send that out.

“This is a little café and takeaway in Gorton – not a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. I don’t even get a wage from the café. I’m a woman running this business on my own and put all the hours in just to get by – and they send me a letter threatening to take everything away unless I pay a billion pounds.” Bob Gaiger, HMRC spokesman, said: “We are very sorry to hear of the problems our customer has had. We cannot comment on individual cases but when mistakes do happen our aim is to always put them right as soon as we can and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“We are very sorry to hear of the problems our customer has had."

Dear tax collector: when you take money from someone under threat of imprisonment, they are not your "customer," they are your victim. Taxation is not service, it is force.