HMRC paid my tax rebate into someone else’s bank account

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Can you help me to get back a £453 tax rebate that HMRC has paid into someone else’s bank account? The matter is partially my fault, in that I gave the tax office the wrong bank details – using an account number from one Santander account, with the sort code from another we also hold.

When the rebate didn’t arrive, I queried it. After several months of investigating with both the bank and HMRC it emerged that the money had been paid into somebody else’s account.

Santander knows exactly who it went to, but won’t follow this up, citing data protection. Staff have told me that had HMRC given my name, as well as the sort code and account number, the payment would have been rejected – but it doesn’t do this for some reason.

All of my attempts to get HMRC to recall the money have come to nothing.

I can’t believe I’m the only person to misquote an account number, but I’m getting nowhere and seem to be expected to just lose the money.
CG,
by email

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If it’s any consolation you are not the first person to do this, but, hopefully, this sort of complaint should soon be a thing of the past. Last year, Guardian Money featured the extraordinary case of Peter Teich whose £193,000 inheritance was paid into the wrong bank account in almost identical circumstances.

Since both that case, and when your payment was made to the wrong account last December, UK banks have introduced “confirmation of payee” which links the account name to the number and sort code. A payment will only go through if the details all match up. This is designed to stop cases like these from happening, as well as prevent fraud.

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While HMRC clearly had been very unhelpful to you over the past few months, it did at least move quickly to put things right once the Guardian got involved.

It accepts that staff should have resolved the issue more quickly, and apologised. “We have now corrected the problem and made the refund and are taking steps to ensure this does not happen again,” it says.

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