CRAFiC Research Seminar: Barriers to tax compliance: the tax problems experienced by older people with Professor Jane Frecknall-Hughes

This research seminar is hosted by the Centre for Reseach into Accounting and Finance in Context (CRAFiC) at Sheffield University Management School.


Professor Jane Frecknall-Hughes, Nottingham University Business School


This paper reports the findings of a study funded by the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), which has examined the records of Tax Help for Older People (Tax Help), a tax charity which assists those (typically) aged over 55 with income of £20,000 or less who experience problems with taxation, most commonly income tax. The aim of this archive-based study was to explore the data in Tax Help’s case files and how that data might be analysed to identify the types of problems and issues that Tax Help’s clients experience; and to develop a typology of these (e.g., systemic problems, pension-related issues, savings and investment related issued, issues related to particular life stages or life events). The study follows up on a scoping study into those same records, undertaken in the previous year, and also funded by the CIOT. For this section of the population, the Tax Help case files provide evidence to answer several important research questions:

  • What is the level of tax literacy/knowledge among older individuals?

  • What is the relationship between tax literacy and tax non-compliance? Is tax literacy important and what other barriers might prevent compliance?

  • Does the level of literacy differ between those who have been self-employed and those who have been employed?

  • What types of intervention are necessary to engage taxpayers successfully?

  • How should working individuals be educated regarding tax prior to entering the labour market?

  • How should entrepreneurs and business owners be educated prior to developing their activity?

Tax Help has seen a surge in requests for help in recent years, generated by the existence of an ageing population, who feel increasingly isolated by health and other problems associated with advancing age, the complexity of tax regulations, difficulties with obtaining help from HMRC and often by exclusion from using digital media. Changes in tax legislation and major life changes (e.g., retirement or ceasing to trade as a self-employed person, divorce, death of a partner or spouse) often present a range of problems relating to self-assessment, PAYE, the issue or completion of official forms, claiming allowances, etc. For instance, many people when employed have no direct involvement with tax as this is dealt with by their employer under PAYE, so their ‘tax antennae’ are not tuned in to what happens when employment ceases. Sometimes tax problems remain hidden for several years, and once they are uncovered frequently bring other related tax problems in their wake. However, even ‘tax literate’ older people sometimes experience severe problems, because they cannot do what is required owing to a physical disability which creates a barrier to compliance. A person who is blind cannot either a paper form or a computer screen, but might know exactly what should be done. These and other barriers are considered in detail.



Professor Jane Frecknall-Hughes is Professor of Accounting and Taxation at Nottingham University Business School, which she joined on 1 November 2016. After graduating from the University of Oxford, she became a chartered accountant and chartered tax consultant with KPMG.

In 1992 she joined the University of Leeds, gaining postgraduate teaching qualifications and a PhD (in Revenue Law and Tax Practice) and was awarded a master's degree (with distinction) in Commercial Law from the University of Northumbria in 2007. She is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. After moving to the University of Sheffield in 2005, she then joined The Open University in 2008 as Professor of Accounting, later holding the posts of Professor of Law and Head of the Open University Law School and then Professor of Revenue Law. She joined Hull University Business School in September 2014 as Professor of Accounting and Taxation and Head of the Accounting and Finance Subject Group.

Jane's research focuses on taxation, especially from an interdisciplinary perspective. She has gained an international reputation for her work in this area, which is reflected in her publication record. She has taught a wide range of subjects in the accounting and business law area, including taxation, and her textbook, entitled The Theory, Principles and Management of Taxation: An Introduction, was published by Routledge in October 2014.


  • 12.30- 13.00 Light lunch served in the Courtyard Cafe

  • 13.00 -14.00 Talk takes place in Meeting Room 3 (C Floor)

Event Details

When: December 12, 2018 at 12:30pm—2:00pm

Where: Conduit Road, Sheffield, S10 1FL

Type: Alumni, Student, Business

Book Event