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Smiths slammed for selling out-of-date self assessment guide

22nd Aug 2019
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High street retail giant WHSmith has been forced to pull a ‘do-it-yourself’ tax return guide from its shelves after an eagle-eyed AAT employee spotted it was based on the rules for 2014-2015.

The Tax Return Organiser 2014 guide offered ‘tax-saving tips to reduce your tax bill’ and promised to save potential purchasers money on accountancy fees.

However, Phil Hall, head of public affairs and public policy at the AAT, clocked the book on sale for £24.99 at WHSmith's Sevenoaks store this weekend and took the shop to task on Twitter.

“Selling the public a DIY self assessment kit that’s five years out of date beggars belief,” said Hall. “There’s been various tax changes since then, not least numerous changes to the annual allowance, so any member of the public using these could find themselves getting into a real mess, and potentially facing an HMRC fine as a result.

“I’ve brought this issue to WHSmith’s attention and am pleased they have agreed to withdraw these from sale as a matter of urgency. If a member of the public needs help with their tax return I’d suggest going to a qualified professional such as an AAT licensed accountant,” continued Hall.

Returns due in January 2020 correspond to the 2018-19 tax year, and those who fail to file on time face automatic fines of £100, rising to more than £1,000 for returns which are filed more than a year late.

In a statement, WHSmith said it was removing the book (pictured above) from its stock system at once and it had been on sale “in error”.

“We take our responsibility for the products we sell very seriously,” the statement continued, “and we are removing this product from sale immediately.”

The store also confirmed that it would be investigating whether the sale was a one-off at its Sevenoaks Store, or if the book had been available elsewhere.

The guide is currently not listed on the WHSmith website but instead stocks the intriguingly titled All You Wanted to Know About Filing Tax Returns.

Replies (18)

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By Matrix
22nd Aug 2019 23:51

The book at the bottom is for Indian tax returns.

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Replying to Matrix:
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By emanresu
23rd Aug 2019 11:22

Matrix wrote:

The book at the bottom is for Indian tax returns.

... and is even more out-of-date (30th November 2002)!!!

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By Justin Bryant
23rd Aug 2019 09:10

This is clearly just a rather cheap publicly stunt by AAT. Possibly trying to make up for their recently rejected and very dumb suggestion that SDLT should be paid by property sellers. See: https://www.tax.org.uk/media-centre/blog/media-and-politics/why-transfer...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_cat_strategy

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
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By Dandan
23rd Aug 2019 15:14

Yes, it is.

The book clearly says on the cover that it is for 2014/15.

I don't think it is fair to expect book stores to be alert to yearly changes in tax law. W H Smith has been selling novels for some 50 decades or more and I do not think novels or DIY books go out of date. It is just a shame that there was a tax book specific to 2014/15.

Perhaps AAT is suggesting that every bookstore should have a resident AAT employee to "check" that all year-relevant books are cleared from the shelves.

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By SteLacca
23rd Aug 2019 09:10

Why is this any worse than .gov.uk publishing out of date, or even just plain wrong information?

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Replying to SteLacca:
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By Justin Bryant
28th Aug 2019 10:29

Yes; that's precisely my point above. It's a complete non-story done purely for publicity. (The alternative headline "Booksellers sometimes either accidentally or deliberately sell out of date books, including tax books" is not so attention-grabbing is it?)

A shame that this otherwise esteemed online publication has fallen for it and is publicising this cr ap.

Aweb should save face and remove this AAT free publicity story in my view (the whole contrivance was designed in such a way to make it attractive padding for bored journalists in the middle of the silly season).

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By dwgw
23rd Aug 2019 10:56

Plenty of out of date tax books available from Amazon!

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Replying to dwgw:
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By Dandan
23rd Aug 2019 15:16

Very good point.

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By AnnAccountant
27th Aug 2019 08:57

I bought an old book of leg a few years ago for 1p plus postage. It was on purpose - to use in an exam. No way was I paying £80 for a book I'd use only in the exam!

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By ATS_ACCA
23rd Aug 2019 11:24

I don't see anything wrong with this book. The book on its cover clearly and specifically says "For completing both 2014 and 2015 tax returns". It can remain on display for sale for any number of years in the future for any person who is interested to know how completing the tax returns for 2014-15 was looking like.
I see this article as a direct publicity for both WHSmith and AAT.
I think our Editor Mr Tom Herbert should have got the eagle-eye and spotted that the "eagle-eyed AAT employee" has got it wrong.

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By Nick Graves
23rd Aug 2019 11:30

I've got copies of Tolley's tax guides on my bookshelf going back to 2002.

Probably something to do with Imposter Syndrome, since they're simply gathering dust.

Then again, I also have a Haynes Manual for a FIAT 124, so perhaps I'm just a Sentimental Old Fool.

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Replying to Nick Graves:
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By SXGuy
23rd Aug 2019 11:37

I think my oldest is "Tips and Advice on Tax" going back to 1998 lol

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Replying to Nick Graves:
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By Dandan
23rd Aug 2019 15:19

And I was lucky to find a Haynes manual for my old banger just before Halford stopped stocking it.

Thank god they had out-of-date books

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By SXGuy
23rd Aug 2019 11:35

They still sell Tax Disc holders, so is it any surprise?

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Replying to SXGuy:
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By Rammstein1
23rd Aug 2019 11:45

I bought one a couple of years ago as I needed to display my works car park pass and it was the easiest way to do it.

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By johnt27
23rd Aug 2019 15:18

For any DIY tax-returner this book may well still be relevant...

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By AnnAccountant
27th Aug 2019 09:01

Personally, I think it is more shameful that:

1) AAT are describing their members as "accountants" when even their own letters describe members as "accounting technicians"

2) That they are touting AATs as the "go to" people to complete a tax return - rather than for bashing the bookkeeping entries for your weekend book stall.

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By justsotax
27th Aug 2019 09:31

Not only out of date, but suggests it applies to the whole of the UK when we all know the rules from Scotland are different....

Does this mean all of the black tolleys books I have are out of date and no longer useful...!? (The dangers of twitter and the ability to post quickly without fully thinking through the consequences)

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