According to the government website, more than 10,200,000 people filed their 2020-21 tax return by the usual deadline of 31st January 2022. However, this year, due to the pandemic, there was a month’s leeway and so many others have been busy catching up in February.
This led to a slightly different month as far as M&S was concerned. Normally, the days leading up to the 31st of January are one of the peak workloads of the year for us. They were certainly busy, as reflected in HMRC’s own figure of more than 630,000 customers who filed on deadline day.
However, unlike ‘normal’ years, 2022, as noted, saw the tax authorities granting us all four more weeks for filing returns and as a result we have been unusually busy. HMRC estimated that over two million people still had to file their returns by the end of February and at times it seemed like they were all trying to do it through us!
That said, we wonder how many of the 12.2 million expected to file returns this year will still be waiting for refunds from any overpaid tax from self-assessment tax returns in 2024?
At present, a study has shown that some half a million taxpayers are in this position, waiting for refunds from 2019-20. An FoI request has shown that HMRC has only cleared 84% of the payments owed, although, to be fair, these delays were, in part, due to the enhanced fraud measures brought in as a result of Covid-19 which are being made to ensure claims are legitimate.
Nonetheless, more than half a million businesses, at least some of whom will have cash-flow issues, are having to wait an inordinately long time to get money that is due to them. It’s always been the case that some repayments get stuck in the system, but an independent analysis has shown that the annual gap between tax repayments generated and tax refunds issued increased by 133% over the four-year period between 2017-18 and the last financial year, 2020-21.
HMRC are generally damned if they do and damned if they don’t, but in this instance, and even allowing for the pressure they are under, it’s important that steps are taken to reduce the backlog of delayed refunds as quickly as possible.
If you are one of those affected, get in touch with us and we’ll do our best to help you break the log-jam.
Vivian Linstrom, M&S Accountancy & Taxation