Over the Christmas period of last year I did some seasonal temporary work at my previous employer (who I had left a few months prior due to education commitments), but due to multiple failures (mine, the employer's, and the income tax office) I was improperly taxed for the month of December.

My previous employer told me that they are unable to repay the income tax deducted as I am no longer on payroll, while the income tax office told me that they are able to refund me but not until my previous employer had sent in their income tax statement for the first quarter of 2018, due by a certain date at the beginning of April.

That date has passed. The income tax office contacted me today apologizing and said that my previous employer has yet to send in their income tax statement for the last quarter. I am still owed the income tax that was incorrectly deducted. I cannot note it in my income tax return because as a student, I do not complete income tax returns.

Is it ethical for me to contact my previous employer to ask them about the state of their income tax return for last quarter? I do not want to burn bridges but at the same time, I want to be repaid the money that I am owed.

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    Is it ethical to ask if they fulfilled their legally required responsibility of filing tax documents? You have every reason to hound them until they do it. – Joe W Apr 24 '18 at 21:56
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    Which country is this in i don't understand your comment "as a student, I do not complete income tax returns." Students still pay tax on income do they not - in the UK even non adults have a tax code and tax alowance – Neuromancer Apr 24 '18 at 22:25
  • @Neuromancer This is Guernsey, where students in full-time education do have a tax coding but are not required to complete an income tax return- tax under your personal allowance as a student is not taxed (instead of it being taken and then you having to claim it back). – user86370 Apr 24 '18 at 22:48
  • @user86370 I am willing to bet you do not understand how tax return filing works, and that is making this issue way more complicated than it needs to be. You are not required to file a tax return doesn't imply you cannot do it anyway. If you have already been taxed, "improperly" or not, and especially if you want a refund, filing a tax return and claiming that refund is a lot easier than making the previous employer file their tax return. Anyway that is between them and the tax department, and not for you to be concerned with. – Masked Man Apr 25 '18 at 5:44
  • @MaskedMan No, it's as in I do not file any income tax returns as long as I qualify. The income tax office told me as much when I phoned them because I do not have the required information to file a tax return (your tax number is required as well as a reference number, and you do not get given a reference number if you qualify). – user86370 Apr 25 '18 at 11:24

Surely it isn't unethical to ask; if they owe you money you are on your rights to ask and try to solve this problem.

However, based on the description of your situation, seems that they are not so diligent with their tax handling and statements. If they haven't turned in their statements for this quarter this surely will be reason for penalties or problems for them.

Because of this, contacting them to try speed this up may prove ineffective.

Seems to me that you are in quite a situation, as it appears you will have to wait for them to submit their statements for you to be able to claim that money. You could contact them until they hand in the statement, as you are in all your rights to do so, but this may take some time and eventually cause some burning.

The thing is if you really care about burning this bridge. Seems to me that they don't have a good manage of their taxes and payments, as they already screwed up before with your payment and now they are behind schedule on their legal tax obligations. I would contact them until I got my money back, and if the bridge burns... well, it would be a sign that they are not the ideal place one would like to be anyways (as it was their flaw the cause of this).


No, you're totally misunderstanding the situation.

If they can't prove that they paid their taxes for that last quarter, which obviously, they can't, but have withheld more than they needed, then it means they owe you that amount withheld.

My previous employer told me that they are unable to repay the income tax deducted as I am no longer on payroll,

It doesn't matter if you're no longer on "payroll". It doesn't matter if their dog ate their tax returns either. Or if someone spent all the money in their bank account on coke. You have enough problems of your own, you can't be responsible for solving their problems either.

And it doesn't matter if the lite version of TurboTax/Quickbooks they purchased doesn't handle complex situations (like not paying their payroll taxes on time, or doing/amending their taxes retroactively).

They will most likely need to purchase more expensive software, or get a real professional to do their taxes for them (in addition to all the extra penalties they'll have to pay). But either way, none of that is any of your concern.

If you were located in the US, I'd tell you to simply contact the Department of Labor in your State. Since they withheld the money like you were some kind of employee. That's the only office you'd need to contact.

Hopefully, you have enough proof that you worked for them and that they withheld taxes (should they pretend that you never worked for them that last quarter).

If you're outside of the US, I'm not sure what the mechanism is, but in the US, this wouldn't be an issue at all, the Department of Labor would just take care of it swiftly for you. And assuming you lived in the US, if you didn't want to be emotionally manipulated by your former employer, you could just let the Department of Labor be the bad guy on your behalf.


Is it ethical for me to contact my previous employer to ask them about the state of their income tax return for last quarter?

No. It is ethical to sue them for triple damages plus interest plus legal expenses.

Repeat after me:

  • You do not screw around with an employee's agreed-upon compensation.
  • Beyond the ethics of the case, compensation shortfalls (or in your case, misuse of income-tax withholding monies which came out of your paycheck) impact your family, your ability to buy food and pay for shelter.
  • This is not something that you screw around with.

I do not want to burn bridges but at the same time, I want to be repaid the money that I am owed.

Oh, you should saturate the bridge with gasoline and let it burn.

  • Reprovisionng an employee's withholding for income-tax is highly unethical and should never be tolerated.
  • Be professional, to the extent that you can, but never associate with those financial officers again.
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    Why is this answer not being well received? The author already asked once, the time to be nice has passed, time to take the issue to a body that will force them to resolve the problem. – Donald Apr 25 '18 at 14:12

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