HMRC apologises over £1bn tax bill blunder

Mama Flo's in Gorton Florence Coke set up her Caribbean cafe in 2010

HM Revenue and Customs has apologised after sending a tax demand for almost £1bn to the owner of a cafe in Greater Manchester.

Florence Coke, owner of Mama Flo's in Gorton, was sent a tax bill for £979,092,858 in March.

She said: "When I realised it was nearly £1bn I nearly fell over in the kitchen. I don't even make a wage."

HMRC said it had "put matters right". Ms Coke said she had now received an amended bill of £17,000.

Ms Coke described the original demand for value added tax (VAT) issued by HMRC in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, as "threatening".

It stated it could seize her assets and sell them at auction or arrange for a debt agency to collect payment.

She said: "I was so worried they would come and take all my stuff.

"I work 150 hours a week and I put everything I have into the cafe. I'm not even making a wage but I love it.

'So stressed out'

"I am naive because it is my first time running a business," said the 59-year-old, who set up the cafe in 2010.

"I called them and they denied they sent the tax bill but I told them I am not a mad woman."

Ms Coke said it was made much worse because her mother died and she had to go to Jamaica for the funeral.

"I was so stressed out. I had two major problems and I was worrying about my cafe while I was away."

When she returned from her mother's funeral she received a letter of apology, which she said she had accepted, and a bunch of flowers from the HMRC.

HMRC spokesman Bob Gaiger said: "We are very sorry to hear of the problems our customer has had.

"We can't comment on individual cases but have already contacted her to apologise and put matters right."

More on This Story

BBC Manchester

Weather

Manchester

Min. Night 10 °C

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.