HMRC post - return to sender

Ever since HM Revenue & Customs moved to using a postal centre to deal with mail with simplified addresses we have had problems with posting never being delivered by Royal Mail.

This month I have had two letters “returned to sender” by Royal Mail and marked “addressee gone away”. One was a letter to HM Revenue & Customs, Inheritance Tax BX9 1HT dated 20 May 2021 and the other was a letter to HM Revenue & Customs, Pay as you Earn and Self Assessment BX9 1AS and dated 23 October 2020. Both were returned on 4 June 2021.

One of my colleagues has recently had two letters returned by Royal Mail. I have also had other post returned to sender or not delivered for over two years now.

Have other contributors to the Trust Discussion Forum encountered similar problems? If so, please elaborate and/or state which part of the country you are based in.

Philip Evans
Graham & Rosen Solicitors

This is a constant bugaboo. We use Royal Mail Click-and-Drop for all our post. Royal Mail’s online services do not recognise HMRC BX5 and BX9 postal codes. We normally work around this in one of several ways, one of which is to use our Adobe Acrobat DC to change the address on the prepaid mailing label before posting. (I have no idea if that causes a conflict with the bar code or QR code on the mailing label but we haven’t had any returns since we started using Click-and-Drop.)

But there’s another workaround, perhaps not easy to find: HMRC offers a different (physical) address for courier delivery: Courier deliveries to HMRC: PO box and BX postcodes - GOV.UK

In any event, we send all significant and all time-sensitive documents to HMRC (and IRS in the USA) by tracked post with or without signature (you can never read the signature anyway, and during COVID Royal Mail doesn’t ask for a physical signature). Tracking may or may not make it less likely your post will be erroneously returned but at least you have a defence against any penalties. And there is a record online of what is happening.

We have had international post (even simple tax returns in standard C5 envelopes) delayed in Customs at JFK Airport in the USA and Cointrin Geneva for up to two weeks. The USPS complaints officer went to the trouble to locate the tracked letter and his intervention may have speeded it up. The curious thing was that one tracked envelope was sent only because an ordinary letter, containing a cheque to MetLife in Rhode Island, went missing. It’s years later and it still hasn’t turned up. If you are dealing with IRS Ogden UT on a “foreign trust” Form 3520 or 3520-A it is especially vital to use tracked post as the penalties start at $10,000 and are often (wrongly) imposed even when other US tax law extends the filing date to the (extended) filing date of the corresponding income tax return. There’s discussion of this on the US trust lawyers’ forums.

Why would we be sending tax forms to the tax office and making up our own address for them? We might as well accept that we have to hand-deliver them to HMRC, so find an address where we, or our agent, can go and hand them over the counter (at least then we’d have a receipt).

If they want us to send in tax forms, let them tell us where to send them. If they can’t even do that, our clients will have to accept the expense of all post to HMRC going by signed-for delivery, just so we can keep track of it. Then, when letters are returned to us after six months, hopefully there will be no interest or penalty to pay – although whether or not they will treat that as our client relying on a third party so maybe not having a reasonable excuse for non-declaration. Indeed our clients will have the benefit of interest, in cases where they pay by cheque. Perhaps when interest rates go up this may encourage the taxman to sort out this problem.

You’d think that in these times, when HMRC are so keen on receiving CGT declarations within 30 days of the disposal, they would devise a system that would overcome this.

That’s the point of the physical address for courier delivery. The business of Royal Mail’s click-and-drop not recognising an established HMRC postcode was astounding to me, but it’s been the case for as long as i’ve been using And to me that means that automated sorting systems may be rejecting important HMRC mail as well. The penalties are so exorbitant that I absorb the tracked-mail fee and consider it a cost of providing a service that is reliable. Even once delivered, both in the UK and the USA, mail can sit opened or unopened for months. Assuming it is delivered. Tracked is cheaper than spending time on the telephone to find out what is wrong. My late wife’s last tax return (sent by ordinary post) sat in somebody’s in-box for six months. I actually tracked down that person on the telephone and embarrassed him such that the return was dealt with, and the refund sent, forthwith.

Hi Andrew

Thanks for your useful observations and comments.

Out of interest I typed the two post codes quoted in my original post into the Royal Mail post code checker and neither address came up. This might explain why Royal Mail are failing to deliver certain items of post.


BX9 1AS is the standard Self Assessment address and where, as accountants, we send most of our post. It is a ‘postal box’ rather than an address, which might be the issue? For sensitive items, I now send recorded, as there was a major issue in December where about a weeks worth of post got ‘lost’.

I don’t understand why they have been returned - seems really odd.

Lucy Orrow CTA TEP
Lambert Chapman LLP

I have always sent the post to HMRC first class registered post (having been advised to do so by them some years ago when some ordinary post allegedly went astray) because they usually squirm when they say they haven’t received it and you can say oh really well I have proof you have - funny how they can find the paperwork then.

I realise your problem is slightly different - your post is not even reaching its destination I have never had a problem with those post box addresses though. I do admit I would prefer to have a full postal address but then I am a bit of a dinosaur. Maybe you should ring them and ask if you can have a different address. You don’t say where you are based. I am in Essex and as far as I know we don’t have that problem here (yet).