Why can’t the taxman tell me who has my missing £937 cheque?

Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below. 

P.B. writes: I received notification from Revenue & Customs last October, saying I was due a tax refund of £937 and that a cheque would be sent by post. 

When I received nothing, I contacted the Revenue and was told the cheque had been cashed on October 9, one day after the date on the notification I had received. 

I have called a number of times since, but have made no progress. Surely the Revenue must know who banked the cheque and where? 

Mystery: The Revenue & Customs issued a new refund but could not give answers

Mystery: The Revenue & Customs issued a new refund but could not give answers

Mystery: The Revenue & Customs issued a new refund but could not give answers

Tony Hetherington replies: This has been a very strange investigation from start to finish. 

My first thought was to wonder why the tax office would write to you on October 8, saying a cheque would be sent by post, when – if the cheque was cashed on October 9 – it must have been posted on the same day, if not earlier. 

Your own repeated letters and calls to the taxman resulted only in you being passed from person to person after waiting each time for up to 40 minutes, and then being told that the matter had been given to ‘the back room’ or to an ‘investigation team’ for enquiries to be made. 

And muddying the waters even further, you received a letter from the Revenue which, when you opened it, turned out to be intended for a Mr Mills. 

You do not know him, and you returned the letter to the tax office, but it does suggest that if the Revenue confused him with you, did they also confuse you with him and send Mr Mills your £937? 

The likely answer seems to be no, unless Mr Mills was perhaps a client of a firm of solicitors in Bolton, which turns out to have cashed the cheque that was intended for you. 

Bizarrely though, the Revenue decided that although the £937 was wrongly sent to the solicitor, it was then applied to ‘the correct account’. 

Since you have never had any dealings with the law firm, it is completely unclear how the taxman could say that your £937 had ended up in the right account. 

I asked officials at the Revenue headquarters to look into this, and they quickly told me: ‘We are sorry Mr B did not receive the refund he was entitled to, and have now taken action to ensure he receives the money as soon as possible.’ 

Sure enough, you do now have your £937. But there are still unresolved puzzles. 

I understand tax refunds are checked by at least two people before they are issued, so how could both of them decide to send your cheque to the Bolton solicitors and not to you? 

And why were you told that your money had ended up in the correct account when the whole point of your complaint was that it had gone seriously astray? 

Revenue officials cannot explain what happened. They say your address is correctly recorded in their files. But if the cheque was made out to you, how could the solicitor have banked it? Too many questions, too few answers.

.Y. received a bill from Together Energy, demanding £511 for electricity - but has never been its customer

.Y. received a bill from Together Energy, demanding £511 for electricity - but has never been its customer

C.Y. received a bill from Together Energy, demanding £511 for electricity – but has never been its customer

You too must look after those bills… 

C.Y. writes: I have received a bill from Together Energy, demanding £511 for electricity, but I have never been its customer. 

I use Utility Warehouse, and it bills me.

I asked Together Energy for proof of any contract between us, and how it calculated the £511 when it has never read my meter, but it called in debt collectors. 

Tony Hetherington replies: This was a puzzle until Together Energy told me that you had actually signed up with the Look After My Bills scheme. 

This means you are switched to a different utility provider whenever one comes along with a better deal than your existing supplier. 

The whole basis of the scheme is that you do not need to shop around or sign new contracts. It is all done for you, and this is why your actual agreement is with Look After My Bills, which transferred you to give you better value than before. 

You have told me that you might have signed up to the scheme ‘inadvertently’. 

Look After My Bills has told me that you were sent five communications notifying you of the switch. Surprisingly though, Together Energy has told me that as a gesture of goodwill it has scrapped your bill completely.

Don't bank on it: G.D. inadvertently transferred money to an old Yorkshire Bank account that had been allocated to another customer

Don't bank on it: G.D. inadvertently transferred money to an old Yorkshire Bank account that had been allocated to another customer

Don’t bank on it: G.D. inadvertently transferred money to an old Yorkshire Bank account that had been allocated to another customer

My £1,000 transfer went to a stranger…and they kept it!

G.D. writes: I transferred £1,000 from my Fidelity account to Yorkshire Bank. 

Unfortunately, I inadvertently selected a Yorkshire Bank account that I closed some years ago. 

The bank said my money would have bounced back to Fidelity, but Fidelity confirmed it really did go to Yorkshire Bank. 

Tony Hetherington replies: When you made the transfer, all you needed to do was give the Yorkshire Bank sort code and account number. What you did not know was that the bank had reissued your old account number to a new customer. 

Recent changes in bank rules mean the transfer should have been rejected if your name and the account number did not match, but at the time of your transfer, banks were ignoring names and relying only on account numbers. 

The result was that the new customer received your £1,000 and simply kept it. 

I asked Yorkshire Bank whether it had warned its new customer that pocketing your £1,000 is a crime and could lead to a charge of theft. Several days later you received a message saying your £1,000 would be refunded in full. 

But the message came from Fidelity, saying it would cover your loss out of goodwill. 

Virgin Money – which owns Yorkshire Bank – told me it had contacted the customer, who had offered to repay the money in installments, but when Fidelity decided it would foot the bill, Yorkshire Bank dropped the matter.

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned. 

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