£180 million of annual tax refunds could be going unclaimed by workers in the UK construction industry, according to figures released today.

The research, conducted by tax refund company RIFT, found that up to 518,650 permanent construction employees could be eligible for tax refunds on their travel between temporary workplaces.  

RIFT is concerned that, at a time when tax-avoidance by the wealthy is in the news more than ever before, and the HMRC is clamping down on tax avoidance in the construction industry, some workers on comparatively low incomes are still losing out on millions of pounds they desperately need.

Unlike self-employed workers who deduct travel expenses as part of their annual self-assessment tax returns, many PAYE construction operatives like labourers, ground workers and brick layers are failing to claim these expenses back.

RIFT has calculated that almost £12.5 million of tax refunds go unclaimed in London alone, with a further £4.7 million going unclaimed in both Birmingham and Glasgow.

HMRC was further criticised after it emerged that it makes £5 million in additional revenue from the 0845 numbers that members of the public must call to contact the organisation. Over £500,000 is generated from calls that go unanswered by HMRC agents.

Jan Post, managing director of RIFT, said: “It’s a national scandal that thousands of hard working people are missing out on tax refunds that are rightfully theirs, while some of the richest people have been handed a tax cut in the recent Budget. We estimate  there could be as much as £180 million floating around HMRC that could be putting food on peoples’ tables who aren’t earning sky high salaries. 

Derek Flowers, a construction worker from Deal, in Kent, said: “We hear every day how we are all supposed to be ‘in it together’. Money is tight at the moment, and we should be able to get back any tax that we are entitled too. It’s galling to read about the rich paying a smaller proportion of their income in tax than I do when they’re earning millions.”

RIFT was established in 1999 to assist construction workers in claiming their travel expenses back from HMRC.