A FORMER Celtic player has been offered just £100 by the taxman after it took nearly £300,000 from his bank account over a year ago for taxes he did not owe.

Former Polish international goalkeeper Łukasz Załuska and his wife Magda have told of their "nightmare" three years in fighting to get back what was their's with one accountant friend describing what HM Revenue & Customs has done as "tantamount to theft".

An independent adjudicator has said that the taxman had not shown that they considered their legal requirements under its Charter, our sister title The Herald reports.

The Zaluskas have told how their Polish bank account was blocked as the country's tax authorities told them that they had to take their savings to give to the UK.

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They believe the actions of the taxman are a breach of their human rights.

Independent tax adjudicators upheld their complaint, confirming that the deduction was made as a result of an error made in filling out the tax forms over the 2013/14 and 2014/15 by Mrs Zaluska that meant his income was reported twice - doubling his tax liability.

Mrs Zaluska said she had made a mistake by stating that her husband had made £500,000 in additional earnings, when it was not the case. The couple say that it was a error brought about over a lack of understanding of the English language.

But despite pleas by them and by their accountant and lawyers, the taxman has so far refused to return their money.

And after The Adjudicator’s Office, the public body set up to look into complaints about the HMRC, found in their favour the taxman offered a mere £100.

The decision has shocked Mr Zaluska who was with Celtic for six years till 2015, making 28 appearances having previously played for Dundee United.

At 40, and now retired from football, Mr Zaluska lives in Białystok, the largest city in northeastern Poland, 30 miles from the border with Belarus, with his wife and 16-year-old song Markus.

The adjudicator, Helen Megarry said that the HMRC had decided that it could not accept a claim of overpayment saying it was received after a time limit - which is denied.

But in upholding their complaint and calling for the taxman to review its decision not to pay money back, the adjudicator said: "We consider that HMRC have not shown that they have reached a reasonable decision in relation to [Mr Zaluska's] late application for overpayment relief.

Glasgow Times:

"They have taken a narrow approach to their application of discretion and have not demonstrated that they have given sufficent weight to the undisputed fact that Mr Zaluska made a mistake when completing his tax returns and that he paid tax on income that he did not receive.

"Neither have HMRC shown that they have considered their Charter commitments in their exercise of discretion."

The HMRC Charter is a legal requirement under the Finance Act 2009 and relates to the standards of behaviour and values to which the taxman has to aspire when dealing with people.

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As part of that it is expected to work within the law to make sure "everyone pays the right amount of tax".  The adjudicator said: "HMRC appear to have given consideration to only fiscal finality, statutory time limits and the law, rather than Mr Zaluska's personal circumstances or their commitment to helping customers get their tax right."

But in response to the findings of the adjudicator in June, the HMRC in a letter to Mr Zaluska's accountant offered £100 "to acknowledge the worry and distress this has caused".

The letter from Richard West, an HMRC customer services director stated: "Please accept my apology. We did not deal with your complaint as well as we should have.

"We have reviewed Mr Zaluska's claim again, taking into account his own personal circumstances. I am sorry to tell you we cannot change our decision and accept the over-payment claims."

Mr Zaluska's Glasgow accountant said he was "speechless" at the response.

Mr Zaluska, who is working as a goalkeeping coach, said: "There was a simple human mistake and we have been waiting for the money and they offered me £100 back. That is it. It is ridiculous.

"This might be a worry for other foreign players.

"I expect they are going to take everything and I hope, I really hope the people who is working for me in Scotland will help me and win this case. Because I didn't to anything wrong."

The issues arose after Mr Zaluska phoned the taxman about outstanding tax returns in November 2016, and was told he had late filing penalties.

In April, 2017, the taxman received returns for 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 but found that due to the error Mr Zaluska had an outstanding debt of over £270,000.

The footballer said he had contacted the HMRC towards the end of the year to let them know that a mistake had been made in the returns before an overpayment relief claim deadline of April 5, 2018 had passed.

But between March 16 and 18, 2020 HMRC together with the Polish authorities took the money directly from his bank account.

Lawyers for Mr Zaluska told the HMRC that his nationality should be considered as a protected characteristic under the Human Rights Act and explained that the reasons his tax returns were completed incorrectly was because English was not his first language.

Glasgow Times:

After the Zaluskas took the case to the HMRC chief executive, Jim Harra in September, 2021 - the following month the taxman reaffirmed that the claims were made too late.

The adjudicator said that the taxman said that it "may appear unfair not to allow a customer to claim a repayment of tax that may not be due, but the statutory time limits are legitimate and proportionate means of ensuring fiscal finality and control over public finances".

Mr Zaluska's Glasgow accountants raised concerns at the taxman's response with Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss, saying: "I am at a loss to understand HMRC’s latest decision when the adjudicator, an independent body, have reviewed the case in detail and have recommended that HMRC should reconsider their decision because they have not given full consideration to Mr Zaluska’s personal circumstances, the very point I have been making to HMRC for months.

"You will note that HMRC give no explanation why they have not changed their decision instead simply saying they cannot change their mind.

"What is the point of having the adjudicator as an independent body, which is designed to ensure that HMRC fairly and consistently apply its published standards, guidance and codes of practice, if HMRC then simply ignore recommendations..."

Mrs Zaluska said: "We have this after six years for Celtic. It is almost like a heart attack.

"This was our savings and we found our account was blocked and everything was gone. And we were totally in shock. "The Polish authority for tax called and said they have to take this money because you owe tax to the British Government.

And we said: 'We owe tax?' It sounds ridiculous. We were paying 51% for the last six years. "We already paid over £1m to the HMRC. It was ridiculous.

"Then [a friend in Scotland] found out that I simply did a mistake. He just prepared a correction right away. But it isn't accepted. They just didn't want to ask. They just wanted to give us the penalty. "

She could not believe the offer made by the taxman and said every penny should be returned.

And she was surprised the HMRC did not make contact to find out why it was he could make so much in additional earnings.

"They want to offer £100, for what? To buy milk and water? They didn't even ask if we have money for living, for school or food, nothing. They ignore us and our lawyers and accountant," said Mrs Zaluska.

Glasgow Times:

It is simply like a nightmare. But everyone says to us they should give this money back because it is totally against human rights, because he has already paid all taxes.

"It is a warning for all players. Everyone can make a mistake. They shouldn't treat us this way. It is really ridiculous."

The HMRC has told Mr Zaluska's respresentatives in the last few days that it is now going to carry out a full review to reconsider its decision.

An HMRC spokesperson said: "We can't comment on identifiable taxpayers.

“HMRC will always carefully consider recommendations from the Adjudicator’s Office and we are determined to help taxpayers get their tax right.”