Hundreds of Welsh NHS workers could have overpaid thousands in income tax and National Insurance, Welsh Conservatives can reveal.
A freedom of information (FOI) request has disclosed that at least 617 NHS Wales employees who’d gone through the Widening Access Training (WAT) scheme had yet to see their claims reimbursed.
The WAT scheme sees NHS workers – including nurses, midwives and doctors - undertake full-time training at colleges and universities in Wales.
But payments received by these employees while training were wrongly taxed as if it was paid work, instead of being given the tax exemptions they were legally entitled to as participants of a special training scheme.
In a letter (attached) seen by Angela Burns AM – Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Secretary – a nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, estimated that 12 months after they completed the WAT scheme they were still owed “in the excess of £3000” with another colleague reportedly having received a rebate of £7000 with more still to come.
According to a number of off the record complaints, many employees say they are struggling to get a response from their health board, whose responsibility it is to process their tax rebate via HMRC.
The anonymous nurse describes becoming “increasingly frustrated” with the Cardiff and Vale health board’s payroll department, whose officials said that rebate claims on behalf of WAT participants are not being processed during normal working hours.
Five of Wales’ seven health boards have recorded employees who have yet to receive their rebates from the WAT scheme: Aneurin Bevan (180 employees), Cwm Taf (160 employees), Cardiff and Vale (125 employees), Betsi Cadwaladr (105 employees), and Powys Teaching (47 employees).
Hywel Dda health board said that it was unable to release the exact number of employees still seeking rebates under the WAT scheme given that it was “still processing” the information it had received.
Commenting on the situation, Angela Burns AM said:
“The health boards really need to get their act together on this - medical professionals should not be unfairly taxed while they study.
“Clear guidance should be issued to participants of this scheme over who is eligible to claim, how they can claim, and how long it will take for their claims to be processed.
“Some NHS Wales employees are faced with serious financial challenges and to deny them the money they are rightfully owed sends a message of uncaring thanklessness.
“Health boards should work closely with HMRC to process all outstanding claims as soon as possible.
“The work of nurses, doctors and midwives is invaluable to our NHS and efforts to recoup the money they are owed should reflect this.”