The deadline for getting your tax return to HMRC is 31st January. If you are a client of M&S then you’ll know this and will almost certainly either already have had your return scrutinised by us and submitted, or will be in the final stages of doing this (and don’t worry, we’ll make sure it’s OK).
However, every year, thousands of people across the UK fail to get their return in before the deadline. And when I say thousands, I mean hundreds of thousands. In fact, I mean 800,000. Not only that, but last Monday (22nd January), HMRC reported that 3 MILLION of us had not yet submitted a return. It seems scarcely believable that so many businesses and people can simply ignore a deadline that costs them money, but that’s what they do.
For those who don’t (or can’t - sometimes for good reasons) submit a return on time, an automatic fine of £100 is given. Although there was some suggestion prior to last November’s Budget/Autumn Statement that this fine would no longer be levied, there is as yet no sign of this being the case, nor do we suspect is there ever likely to be In fact, an HMRC spokesman was reported as saying:
"This type of penalty is applied to encourage customers (HMRC’s words not ours) to comply with their obligations, to act as a sanction for those who don’t and to reassure the compliant majority that they will not be disadvantaged by those who don’t play by the rules.
"Penalties issued by HMRC to those who file late are due and payable. Any taxpayer with a reasonable excuse for filing late should get in touch with us."
However, a recent court judgement about which you may have read has cast some doubt on the legality of HMRC issuing automatic fines via their computers. The judge said this sort of fine should only be valid if it is issued by a human being, not by a computer. The mainstream press have got a little excited, wondering if this could lead to a host of appeals to HMRC against fines previously issued automatically. One tax specialist was even quoted as saying, “this should be looked at by HMRC before we end up with another PPI style scandal.”
Now before every one of you who has suffered an automatic fine for late payment starts thinking of where they are going to spend the rebate, it’s worth pointing out that other judgments agree that computers can issue fines. As is always the case, before you rush to hurl abuse at HMRC (not that we’re saying they don’t sometimes deserve it!) and consider action to recover such a fine, speak to a real tax specialist. Like us…