Business

Tax deadline put back by HMRC over strike

  • 26 January 2012
  • From the section Business
PCS union flag across HMRC office sign
Image caption The PCS union is planning a walkout at HMRC on 31 January

No fines will be handed out to anyone who submits their self-assessment tax returns online in the first two days of February.

The official deadline for submitting forms is 31 January, but a planned strike for that day is set to cause last-minute disruption.

So HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has effectively put back the deadline by two days.

More than two million people have still to file their returns online.

The tax authority has changed the procedure after earlier telling the BBC that there would be leniency owing to the strike.

The public sector union, the PCS, is planning strikes at call centres and inquiry offices to protest against the appointment of private companies to run call-handling trials in two contact centres.

Fines

The countdown to the tax return deadline has started in earnest. On Tuesday, 182,530 forms were filed online.

HMRC is introducing a much tougher system of fines this year. The £100 penalty will apply whether or not there is tax owed.

Penalties can mount up if a taxpayer neglects to send in a form, to £1,300 after six months and £1,600 after a year.

Even so, 600,000 of the nine million people who have to fill in the returns were expected to put off submitting them until 31 January.

Image caption The deadline for paper returns was on 31 October, but the online deadline is later

On past form, 15% per cent of them, about 90,000, will ring for help and may find it impossible to get an answer, owing to the strike on deadline day.

"We have always been very clear that we want the returns - not the penalties. For that reason, we do not want anyone who cannot get through for help and advice on 31 January to be disadvantaged in any way," said HMRC's acting-director of general personal tax, Stephen Banyard.

David Gauke, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: "This strike could have caused thousands of people to incur fines, so I am pleased that HMRC has taken this commonsense approach.

"The government does not want anyone trying to file their tax return on time to be unfairly penalised because they were unable to get through for help and advice on the 31st."

Those who have tax to pay will not face any interest on payments made on 1 and 2 February.

Appeals

Anyone who files after 2 February will be fined £100, although the normal appeals procedure is in place.

This requires taxpayers with a "reasonable excuse" to write to their tax office quoting their unique taxpayer reference. They should not wait for the penalty notice.

Examples given of valid excuses which would normally be accepted include the loss of documents through theft, fire or flood and the onset of a life-threatening illness.

Those choosing to send in tax returns on paper were required to submit them by 31 October. Some 34,000 penalty notices were sent out after the deadline passed.

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