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'Utter shambles' for NHS workers who overpaid tax while undergoing training

Nurses who took part in the Widening Access Training (WAT) scheme could be eligible for a sizeable tax rebate.

More than 16,000 NHS staff who took part in an NHS training scheme have applied for tax rebates worth thousands of pounds, but some are struggling to get their money back, an investigation has revealed.


Successful claimants told the website they typically get more than £1,000 back,
and one reclaimed £13,500. Picture: Alamy

As highlighted by Nursing Standard earlier this year, tens of thousands of employees, including nurses, who completed Widening Access Training (WAT) schemes, could be eligible for substantial tax and national insurance rebates, by applying to HMRC through their NHS trust.

The NHS staff took part in the WAT schemes through a training allowance or scholarship but were taxed as if they had undertaken paid work.

Since 1999, the NHS in England has been running the WAT scheme, aimed at broadening the professional knowledge of nurses and other health service staff.

Lack of clarity 

A written parliamentary answer from HMRC to MPs, who have been helping their constituents reclaim, showed that HMRC has received 16,762 applications, with 8,209 getting their cash back.

HMRC has received 11,218 claims for 2016-17 alone.  

However, consumer finance information website MoneySavingExpert.com said NHS staff have been contacting them about the lack of clarity over who should be handling their refunds.

One group of health visitors described the rebate process as ‘long, laborious and inconsistent’, with limited communication and no explanation for vast differences in amounts paid back.

Successful claimants told the website they typically get more than £1,000 back, and one reclaimed £13,500.

Employees put off

MoneySavingExpert.com managing editor Guy Anker said: ‘It’s an utter shambles between HMRC and the NHS Trusts.

'There is confusion about the rules and variances in what claimants get, and despite it being money they never should have paid in the first place, employees are essentially being put off from getting their money back.

‘HMRC needs to issue clear guidance on both tax and national insurance rebates to all trusts, and regardless of who’s at fault, anyone enrolled in this scheme going forward needs to have the correct deductions made automatically through payroll.’

A HMRC spokesperson said: ‘We are working closely with NHS Trusts to ensure that all those who overpaid receive refunds as soon as possible. This may take some time depending on the quality of information provided to us. We ask customers to do some basic checks first before contacting us.’

The spokesperson said checks should include:

  • Were claimants in full-time training?
  • Do they have a letter confirming they were in full-time training?
  • Have they copies of any certificates they received for completing their training?
  • Have they checked with their NHS payroll department to make sure that the payments they received were payments for training only?

Further information

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