The Horizon Shortfall Scheme

The Horizon Shortfall Scheme

Thank you for visiting the website of the Horizon Shortfall Scheme.

Scheme name change

Please note that, following feedback received, the name of the Scheme changed on 7 July 2023 to Horizon Shortfall Scheme. It is the same Scheme and there are no other changes. Therefore, current or former applicants do not need to do anything further, or re-apply.

The feedback received was that the word ‘historical’, included in the name of the previous Scheme, was considered offensive to some Postmasters because the impact of the Horizon Scandal has continued to affect their lives and was very much not historical. No offence was ever intended and the word historical was used solely to clarify that the Scheme offers redress for past shortfalls, related to previous versions of Horizon (pre-2017). Post Office is sorry for any offence this may have caused.

Published 20 July 2023

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Important message – Tax Top-Up payments 

Postmasters in the Horizon Shortfall Scheme (HSS) are receiving Tax Top-Up payments to ensure that the amount of compensation they receive is not unduly reduced by tax. 

Letters with details about individual Tax Top-Up payments continue to be sent to Postmasters in the Scheme who have received compensation. Letters for Postmasters who received compensation before April 2023 are prioritised. We expect all Postmasters to have received letters by the end of March 2024 at the latest. 

Reassurance on HMRC Self-Assessment deadline
Some Postmasters may need to file a Self-Assessment tax return. If any Postmaster struggles to meet HMRC’s forthcoming electronic filing deadline (31 January 2024, or to pay any tax due, because they are waiting for their HSS Tax Top-Up letter or payment, any associated penalties and interest will not be payable. There is an HMRC team and guidance available to help – details can be found here. 

Financial help
If you need professional help to file your tax return, up to £250
plus VAT is available for this.  You do not have to wait for a Tax Top-Up letter to do this. Simply send your invoice either by email to
horizonshortfallscheme@postoffice.co.uk or alternatively, by post, to Post Office Horizon Shortfall Scheme, PO Box 76882, LONDON E1 9RR, remembering to quote your Scheme reference number from your correspondence. 

Questions and Answers on Tax Top-Ups can be found here.

Published on 9 January 2024

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Tax Top-Up payments

You may be aware of the Government announcement on 19 June 2023 which said that Postmasters in the Horizon Shortfall Scheme “HSS” (previously called the Historical Shortfall Scheme) will receive a Tax Top-Up to their HSS compensation payment ensuring that the amount they receive is not unduly reduced by tax. 

The Tax Top-Up letters, are being distributed to Postmasters and we expect all Postmasters to have received these by the end of March 2024.

Published 15 December

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Tax Top-Up payments

You may be aware of the Government announcement on 19 June 2023 which said that Postmasters in the Horizon Shortfall Scheme “HSS” (previously called the Historical Shortfall Scheme) will receive a Tax Top-Up to their HSS compensation payment ensuring that the amount they receive is not unduly reduced by tax.  We are pleased to advise that the Tax Top-Up letters have today started to be distributed to Postmasters. Over the coming weeks we will provide additional information on the progress of this exercise.

Published 24 October 2023

A full Q&A is provided with the Post Masters Tax Top-Up letter and detailed below are some of the key questions and answers.

Q Do I pay tax on the Tax Top-Up payment?

A No, the Tax Top-Up payment is exempt of income tax, capital gains tax and national insurance contributions and your estate will not be required to pay inheritance tax on it either.

Q Do I pay tax on the HSS compensation payment?

A Yes, there may be tax to pay on your HSS compensation payment. However, this has been effectively limited to the Basic (Starter in Scotland) rate of tax through the Tax Top-Up payment you will receive.

Q Can I get help with filing my tax return?

A Yes, remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the correct amount of tax is paid (and paying too little tax could result in you having to pay interest and penalties to HMRC). Post Office will pay your fees of up to £250 + VAT for help in deciding whether you need to file a tax return and in completing it for the year(s) you received your HSS compensation payment. We strongly recommend that you seek help with filing your tax return

Q Can I claim a tax refund through my self-assessment?

A You may be due a tax refund if the tax withheld on your HSS compensation payment was more than the tax due when filing your self-assessment return. To correctly reflect your personal tax status you may need to complete a tax return.  The HMRC self-assessment process will work in the normal way (see https://www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns). The Tax Top-Up payment is designed based on generous assumptions, you can still accept the Tax Top-Up payment even if you are owed a tax refund after self-assessment.

Q Who can I speak to if I have general queries regarding this payment?

A You can contact us by email at horizonshortfallscheme@postoffice.co.uk

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Eligible late applications

In addition to applicants who are currently part of the Horizon Shortfall Scheme, or who have already accepted offers, we are aware there are people who, for a variety of reasons and circumstances, were unable to apply to the Scheme while it was open in 2020.

To recognise this, we will now accept eligible late applications into the Horizon Shortfall Scheme. This invitation is to new applicants only - anyone who was not able to submit an application to the Horizon Shortfall Scheme before the end date of 27 November 2020.

We will be writing out to everyone who has already contacted us to inform them of this, so if you have already enquired about this you don’t need to do so again separately.           

If you believe you are eligible to apply to the Horizon Shortfall Scheme, but you did not apply while the Scheme was open or you have not already enquired about this to Post Office since the Scheme closed, please complete the application form on the right-hand side of this website or contact horizonshortfallscheme@postoffice.co.uk as soon as possible to request an application form. Full details about how to submit an application are included in the form. 

We appreciate that the application form may appear long and complex, but it is important we have as much information as possible to ensure your application is assessed fairly and thoroughly and the right outcome is reached for your case. Some of the scheme documents also contain necessary formal, legal information and language. Wherever we can, we have kept the information as clear and straightforward as possible.

The Scheme was originally open between May 2020 and 14 August 2020, with an extension for exceptional circumstances until 27 November 2020. 

Eligible late applications will be managed through existing Horizon Shortfall Scheme processes, including an assessment by the Independent Advisory Panel to ensure claims are considered consistently with those already submitted.  

Please see the information and downloadable documents on this website for further details about the Horizon Shortfall Scheme. 

(last updated: 20 July 2023)

----------------------------------------------------------------------

To assist Postmasters, once we have undertaken an initial review of an eligible application and identified any likely shortfalls, Post Office will consider making an interim payment to eligible applicants in advance of Post Office sending a final outcome letter or while an eligible applicant considers an Offer (please contact Post Office at horizonshortfallscheme@postoffice.co.uk to request this). Eligible applicants who have received an Offer but wish to dispute it, will also be offered an interim payment of up to 80% of the Offer (please contact Post Office at DisputeResolutionTeam@postoffice.co.uk to request this). Post Office will not ask for such payments back, whatever the ultimate outcome of eligible applicant claims.

The Horizon Shortfall Scheme has been designed to be simple and user-friendly to avoid the need to incur costs of legal representation. Applicants are of course welcome to engage a lawyer or other professional advisor to provide independent representation at their own expense. Post Office will however help you with the reasonable costs of obtaining legal advice on an Offer if one is made to you. If so, full details will be included in the Offer letter. Reasonable legal fees will also be reimbursed should you wish to dispute the Offer.

Last updated 20 July 2023

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Previously Postmasters were unable to join the Horizon Shortfall Scheme if they ran their Post Offices through a limited company which has since been dissolved. This was because there was no legal entity to make the Horizon Shortfall Scheme claim (nor company bank account to receive any settlement) - the company having ended. In the interests of fairness, Post Office has re-examined this position and has written to all 34 Postmasters who were ineligible for this reason to explain that Post Office is now reviewing their claim and will be in touch soon. 31 of these have now received an Offer. If you were previously informed you were ineligible for the Horizon Shortfall Scheme due to your company having been dissolved and you have not heard from us, please contact us at horizonshortfallscheme@postoffice.co.uk. 

Updated 20 July 2023

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Updates on progress

From January 2023, you can find the monthly updates on progress with Horizon Shortfall Scheme applications, offers and payments here.

(Published 10 January 2023 and updated 20 July 2023)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Update to Panel Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference for the Independent Advisory Panel have been updated to reflect the appointment of additional panel members to the Horizon Shortfall Scheme's Independent Advisory Panel.

Please see the updated document on the right-hand side of the website and the Q&As below.

Why has Post Office appointed additional panel members?
Post Office has appointed additional panel members with similar level of qualifications and experience to the original panel to assist in the effective running of the scheme and to ensure that individual cases are progressed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Who is on the Panel to assess cases?
Each case will be assessed by three members of the Independent Advisory Panel comprising one legal specialist; one forensic accounting specialist; one retail specialist.

The Panel now consists of eight legal specialists (Michael Davie KC, Lord Edward Garnier KC, Lynne McCafferty KC, James Cross KC, Alex Charlton KC, Andrew Neish KC, Jessica Stephens KC and Benjamin Pilling KC); six forensic accounting specialists (Susan Blower, Kevin Haywood Crouch, Andy Cottle, Andrew Maclay, William Bowyer and Nishad Morjaria) and two retail experts (Sunder Sandher and Chris Mitchener).

In addition, a legal specialist from 4 Pump Court and a forensic accounting specialist may be appointed as delegates should relevant members of the Panel be unable to attend Panel meetings. 

Published 13 October 2022 and updated 20 July 2023