I hired a car from Europcar at Pisa airport in Italy. It was a new vehicle, with a few miles on the clock. The day before travelling home, it would not start.
We managed to jumpstart it with the help of the owner of the villa where we were staying, then drove to my cousin’s house some miles away for lunch, hoping the drive would fully recharge the battery. But on leaving, the car would not start.
My cousin phoned Europcar and was told we could either take the car to the city of Lucca and exchange it for another, or buy a new car battery, obtain a receipt and present it at the Europcar desk when we returned the vehicle.
Since we couldn’t actually use the car, a relative took us to a shop to purchase a battery for just over 100 euros. We got it fitted and the car started first time.
When we returned the car, I explained what had happened, that I’d left the faulty battery in the passenger footwell, and handed over the receipt for the new battery.
Falling flat: A reader has been left out of pocket after being forced to replace their hire car’s battery
An employee asked me to put my bank details on a form as he could not refund me then and there as the amount was more than 100 euros.
He said it would take seven working days to reimburse me.
After nearly six weeks, Europcar told me via email that it was ‘not refundable’ since I’d replaced the battery on my own initiative. Please help.
S. L., Frome, Somerset.
Sally Hamilton replies: You were clearly angry with how the Europcar office handled your case. Although the car hire employee said it would take seven working days for a refund, when it did not arrive, you waited another week before sending an email chasing the payment.
You say that when you still had no response, you followed up with many calls, without getting anywhere.
When the firm finally did get in touch, you were told you should have asked a road assistance team to replace the battery rather than take the matter into your own hands.
You have evidently drained your mental resources in chasing your refund so came to me to bump start your claim. This I did, and within a day the matter was resolved.
A spokesman for Europcar says: ‘The company is sorry the customer did not receive a positive experience. Following investigation, it appears there was a miscommunication. The amount of €104.95 (£91) has now been refunded to the customer.’
Europcar says it strives to ensure that all customers have a ‘smooth journey’ so feedback has been provided to the relevant departments to prevent the problem happening again.
Taxman won’t pay interest on late refund
I am the trustee of a trust set up for my parents which made a capital gain on the sale of a property in December 2021.
As the rules say a capital gains tax (CGT) liability from such a transaction must be paid within 60 days of a gain arising, to avoid interest being charged, I made the payment of £25,750 in February 2022.
I later found out, after chatting to an accountant friend, that it was unlikely that CGT was due as private residence relief should have been applied.
I informed HMRC when the tax return was completed in May last year and requested a refund.
Despite numerous calls and written requests, it took until May this year to obtain the refund.
But when it arrived, no interest had been added, even though HMRC had held the money for 12 months. Why is HMRC refusing to pay interest on a late tax repayment?
D. P. Ilkley, Yorkshire.
Sally Hamilton replies: Like most honest taxpayers facing a bill from the Revenue, you were keen to deal with it quickly to avoid being hit with nasty penalties and interest.
The rules are particularly strict when it comes to capital gains tax owed on the sale of a property — and as you mentioned in your letter, it must be paid within 60 days to escape any fines.
You were sure the tax was owed on the sale of the property that originally belonged to your parents and was owned half each in an arrangement called tenants in common. When your mother died in 2009, her half of the property was transferred to a trust.
Your father continued to live in the house until his death in August 2021, after which the home was sold. You thought because it was held in the trust that CGT would apply and so paid up promptly.
But when you later realised that the trust could have made use of your late parents’ private residence relief — which allows anyone’s main home to be sold without incurring CGT — you hoped the Revenue would be as prompt in sorting out the reimbursement as you had been in making the original CGT payment.
Unfathomably, it took more than a year to reimburse you, which was bad enough. But when the money arrived without the interest — which you calculated to be more than £400 — you were furious.
I asked the Revenue to investigate. It took a few days, but it came back with an explanation of what had gone wrong.
Part of the reason for the delayed repayment of the tax paid was an erroneous reference number given to you for the original payment.
This meant the money was not credited to the correct place when the refund was agreed. As for the non-payment of interest, another error occurred, with you being told interest was not due.
HMRC says this was because its records showed there was no reason for you to have made the tax payment.
But on further investigation, HMRC realised you had written a letter of explanation in February 2022, which included clear evidence of why you had believed tax was due on the sale of the property.
HMRC therefore agreed that the original payment was an honest payment of anticipated tax, and admitted interest should have been paid. Interest of £455 has now been paid to the trust account.
The repayment interest applied to taxpayers is set at bank base rate minus 1 per cent— currently 4.25 per cent.
When the boot’s on the other foot and taxpayers owe interest to the taxman, the calculation is much harsher.
They are charged base rate plus 2.5 per cent — currently 7.75 per cent. This is designed to encourage ‘prompt payment’.
An HMRC spokesman says: ‘We have written to D.P. to apologise and confirm repayment interest was due, which has been paid.’
- Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email firstname.lastname@example.org — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.
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