Happily, for contractors working through umbrella companies, the frustrating issue of tax calculation is taken care of by the agency. But PAYE umbrella freelancers might spare a thought for those poor souls who have to wade through self-assessment tax returns every year; new evidence suggests that by being unaware of tax efficiency measures, Britons are handing HMRC an astonishing $13.5 billion each year in unnecessary payments.

The findings come from a study by the financial advisory service,, and reveal that many UK workers are nowhere near as tax efficient as they might believe. Women emerge as the most susceptible to what the organisation calls “tax apathy”, with 91 per cent of those polled failing to take any steps at all to lower their tax liability. Possibly more worrying are the 45 per cent of respondents who believe they already are being as tax efficient as possible, when the figures strongly suggest otherwise.

According to’s Chief Executive Karen Barrett, large amounts of money are being blithely handed over needlessly to HMRC across all tax categories. A little tax planning is all it would take to prevent this. Ms Barrett noted that while more and more consumers will save money by using online moneysaving websites or by switching utilities provider, they appear to be relatively indifferent about losing money through excess tax. In fact, they are likely to save more money annually through tax efficiency awareness than by these other measures.

The study coincides with comments by the Conservative MP John Redwood, about the previous government’s tax policies. Writing in his online diary, he claimed that thirteen years of punitive clampdowns and increasingly complex legislation by Labour had blurred the distinction between tax evasion, which is illegal, and tax avoidance, which isn’t.

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