Managing debt owed to central government

Inquiry status: government response published


Individuals and businesses are in debt to government for overdue tax liabilities, benefit or tax credits overpayments and other reasons, including outstanding fines and court confiscation orders. Overdue debt identified by government was at least £22 billion at March 2013, against total collected revenue of over £600 billion in 2012-13. More than two-thirds of the debt was owed to HMRC.  £6 billion of debt was written off in 2012-13 as irrecoverable, or ‘remitted’ on the basis that it was not a good use of scarce resources to pursue it. In total, losses were more than £32 billion over the last five years. Government cannot easily control all losses - around 70 per cent result from write-offs in insolvency cases. Since 2011 the Fraud, Error and Debt Taskforce, an expert panel chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, has been developing a cross-government view of debt management.

Related information:



  • Close


    • Reports and associated evidence – Reports of Committee inquires. This category may also include Special Reports where they are used by a Committee to bring matters relating to conduct of its business to the notice of the House.
    • Responses to Reports - Responses may be published as a Special Report, or as a Command Paper. They may also be appended to a Report should the Committee have substantial comments on the Response, in which case they can be found listed under Reports. 
    • Other oral and written evidence - Evidence taken by the Committee that has yet to or did not result in the publication of a Report. This includes transcripts of recent meetings.
    • Estimate Memoranda - An Estimate memorandum is an explanatory note that accompanies a government department’s estimate (a means by which a department seeks authority from Parliament for its spending plans).
    • Correspondence - Correspondence sent from or received by the Committee or its Chair.