Byline: JOHN DEANE
ALLOWING taxpayers to settle bills with their credit cards could help to reduce the pounds 14bndebt owed to the Inland Revenue,Whitehall's spending watchdog suggested yesterday.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said the Revenue might also want to examine the pros and cons of selling some of the hardest to collect debts to private collection agencies.
In a report on the Revenue's performance in recovering debts , the NAO noted that of the pounds 14bn outstanding at the end of March 2003, a large part was owed by insolvent businesses and taxpayers who could not be traced.
Of the total,more than pounds 3bn was more than a year old.
The report also noted that in the year to October 2002, the department wrote off more than pounds 500min tax and other miscellaneous duties.
The NAO examined approaches to encourage prompt payment of bills and noted: ``During 2003, the department set up arrangements to allow its telephone centre to accept payment by debit card over the telephone. Local offices will be able to accept debit card payments from mid-2005.
``At present the department do not accept credit card payments. One of the reasons is that the transactions attract a service charge unlike other methods of payment. …