NHS workers and care staff are among thousands of people left out of pocket after a tax rebate claims firm ceased trading, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal.
The Professional Fees and Subscriptions Rebate Service Ltd - known as PF&S - claimed tax rebates from HMRC on behalf of people who are required to wear uniforms or belong to professional bodies as part of their work.
Running since 2010, its sales reps visited hospitals and care homes to drum up business and the firm boasted of recovering over £8 million in overpaid tax for customers - though it took a cut of each rebate paid.
However the firm ceased to trade in August 2016 due to financial troubles, and it's now emerged via documents filed with Companies House that around £375,000 is owed to over 4,000 former clients.
If you wear a uniform at work and have to wash, repair or replace it yourself, you may be able to reclaim £100s of tax. But don't use a claims firm to do it, you can do it yourself for free - see our Uniform Tax Rebate guide for full help.
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4,500 creditors owed
While eligible workers can claim for free simply by filling in an HMRC form, some instead choose to use claims firms such as PF&S. These companies make the claim for you, collect the money from HMRC and then pay it to you minus a fee.
In the case of PF&S, customers were charged either 20% of their rebate or a flat fee of between £36-48, depending on the level of service or refund received.
After the firm stopped trading last summer, it was entered into a 'Company Voluntary Arrangement' - a legal agreement that means a firm in financial difficulties can repay its creditors over a fixed period (two years in this case). As a result of this process, details of the company's financial problems have now been published on the Companies House website.
The documents show that as of 13 February the firm had around 4,500 'unsecured creditors' in total - that's people and businesses it owes money to. Beever Struthers, the firm appointed to 'supervise' PF&S's company voluntary arrangement, told MSE the "vast majority" of these were clients of the firm.
What to do if you've lost out
Beever Struthers says all unsecured creditors were contacted directly prior to a creditors' meeting in February. But if you think you're owed a tax rebate from PF&S and you haven't heard from Beever Struthers, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details and, if possible, a copy of the letter you've received from HMRC confirming that the refund has been processed and paid to PF&S.
Alternatively you can send this information to Beever Struthers' Manchester office at St George's House, 215-219 Chester Road, Manchester M15 4JE.
If you're unsure whether HMRC paid your rebate to PF&S, you can phone its tax helpline on 0300 200 3300. However if it's paid out your rebate to PF&S already and you agreed to let PF&S handle your claim, you're unlikely to be able to get anything direct from HMRC.
It's not yet clear how much creditors will get, if anything - if anything payments are made, they could take many months to come through. Sadly it's extremely common in this kind of situation for creditors - especially unsecured creditors - to get back far less than they are owed, and often nothing at all.
What HMRC says
An spokesperson for HMRC refused to comment on PF&S's case, but said: "HMRC offers comprehensive information on how to claim a tax refund, [and] our services are free.
"Customers who apply directly to HMRC for a refund can be assured that if it is due, it will be paid to them in full. We recognise a number of our customers may use tax refund agents. They should check very carefully about any fees that they may be charged."