Taxpayers who unwittingly paid too much tax to HM Revenue & Customs are running out of time to reclaim it after the taxman cut back the deadline to apply for money by two years.

Traditionally, taxpayers have had six years to make their case to HMRC, but from April this will be reduced to just four years.

Anyone who thinks they may be owed tax for the 2005/06 tax years has only until January 31 to reclaim any money owed. Those who overpaid for the 2006/07 tax year have until March 31, while anyone who has overpaid for 2007/08 has until April 5.

After that, individuals will have to submit a claim within four years of the end of the relevant tax year.

“I would guess that there are tens of thousands of people who could rightly claim back some tax for these years. If they miss the relevant deadline, their opportunity will be lost forever,” said Richard Mannion, national tax director at Smith & Williamson, the accountancy and investment management group.

Mr Mannion said individuals who could be affected include pensioners, who may have a small amount of bank interest on which they could claim, students working during vacations who were put on emergency tax, and children in receipt of interest on bank accounts. Another group could be higher-rate taxpayers who are on PAYE and who may have made contributions to a personal pension or gift-aid payments.

“What concerns me is that many of the people who are rightly owed refunds can ill-afford the overpayment,” said Mr Mannion.

“A substantial group of these will be the elderly in receipt of a pension who also get a little extra on bank interest or maybe they have a small part time job. I am concerned that they may be unaware of their rights and tightening deadlines.”

Anyone who is owed tax needs to complete HMRC’s form R40.

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