Archive for February, 2015

What is a reasonable excuse for late filing

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

You may feel aggrieved that you were unable to file your return on time for a perfectly valid reason. If you want to appeal against any penalties charged there is a formal appeals procedure you should follow. In order to convince HMRC to withdraw their penalty notice you will have to convince them that you had a reasonable excuse.

 The following examples, of what constitutes a reasonable excuse, are copied from HMRC’s website:

  • HMRC Online Services would not accept the tax return – you’ll need to provide the error message you received and the date you tried to send it.
  • You did not receive the tax return or letter telling you to complete a tax return – HMRC usually know if you did not because it is sent back undelivered.
  • Bereavement – the death of a close relative or domestic partner shortly before the deadline.
  • Serious or life-threatening illness, for example, a major heart attack or a serious mental illness that prevents you dealing with your tax affairs.
  • You did not receive your online Activation Code, User ID or password in time to send your tax return by the deadline – as long as you tried to get them before the deadline and once you received them you sent your tax return as soon as you could.
  • Your tax return or cheque was lost or delayed in the post. You must have posted it in good time to meet the deadline.
  • Loss of tax records, through theft, fire or flood that cannot be replaced in time to meet the deadline.
  • Your cheque was dishonoured because of an error by your bank.

 What HMRC will not accept as a reasonable excuse includes:

  • The tax return was too difficult to complete.
  • Pressure of work.
  • It was your agent’s or tax adviser’s fault that you missed the deadline.
  • Lack of information available.
  • We did not remind you about the tax return and payment deadlines.
  • You want to replace the paper tax return you have already sent with an online tax return to reduce your penalties.
  • Unable to send a certain tax return or supplementary pages online as there was no free HMRC software.
  • Your cheque was dishonoured due to a shortage of funds or made out incorrectly.

The best possible strategy to avoid penalties is to file your tax return before the statutory deadline. If you are prevented from doing so by circumstances that you feel constitute a reasonable excuse, then you should appeal against the penalty.

Self Assessment late filing penalties

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

The deadline for submitting your Self Assessment tax return for 2013-14 has passed. The online filing date, after which penalties apply, was midnight, 31 January 2015.

 Penalties for individuals:

 If you failed to make the filing deadline a range of penalties becomes payable, or potentially payable, how much will depend on how quickly you bring your affairs up-to-date.

 Penalties are progressive: they apply from 1 day, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months after 31 January 2015 for the 2013-14 return. 

  1. One day late: an automatic penalty of £100 applies.
  2. 3 months late: a daily penalty of £10 per day for a maximum of 90 days applies (£900).
  3. 6 months late: a further £300 or 5% of any tax outstanding, whichever is the greater.
  4. 12 months late: a further £300 or 5% of any tax outstanding, whichever is the greater. In serious cases you may be asked to pay 100% of the tax due instead.

 The above penalties are in addition to any penalties and interest for paying tax late.

 Penalties for partners:

 There is a nasty sting in the tail for partners who fail to submit their partnership Self Assessment return on time.

 Even though a partnership tax return is one document each partner will be charged a penalty for late filing. If a partner is also late in filing their own tax return then separate penalties will apply.

 The penalties listed in points 1 and 2 above will be payable by each partner. The penalties in points 3 and 4 will be limited to £300 per partner.

 Opportunities to appeal against a penalty charge are considered in the next article.

Tax avoiders beware

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

HMRC have published details of a new consultation they are undertaking to tighten the rules that will be applied to tax payers who use avoidance schemes to artificially reduce their tax liabilities.

The press release includes the following ten points that persistent tax avoiders should be aware:

  • HMRC is serious about stopping avoidance: the government is taking unprecedented steps to clamp down on the small minority who try to avoid paying tax that is legally due.
  • Other people are getting out of avoidance: increasing numbers of people involved in multiple avoidance schemes are approaching HMRC to settle up so that they can put the past behind them and protect their reputation.
  • HMRC want to help you to get out of avoidance: HMRC will work with avoiders who demonstrate a commitment to resolving their avoidance arrangements to finalise their tax liability and will provide certainty over payment terms. HMRC has set up a single point of contact to help establish the possible terms for exit from each scheme a serial avoider uses.
  • HMRC is moving more quickly to tackle serial avoiders: as they close in and increase their focus on this minority, HMRC will look ever more carefully at those who use multiple schemes.
  • You are the one who is responsible: even if a promoter or agent has arranged the avoidance scheme for the user, the avoider remains responsible for their own tax affairs and what is put on their tax return. Serial avoiders will personally have to provide HMRC with information and documents regarding their tax affairs.
  • HMRC has a special unit looking at you: the Serial Avoiders Unit is identifying users of multiple schemes who choose not to approach HMRC to settle their affairs.
  • You may personally have to attend meetings with HMRC investigators: HMRC will ask you about your tax affairs and will be checking that they have the full facts about your arrangements.
  • HMRC will look at all your tax affairs: serial avoiders will be subject to a more co-ordinated approach to challenge and resolve their tax affairs. HMRC will look at your current activity, not just enquiries that are already open. And they will look at all the entities and structures you are connected with, to challenge any avoidance and evasion in all areas of your affairs.
  • You may have to pay up front: HMRC will fundamentally reduce the incentive to engage in serial tax avoidance and recover all duties legally due at the earliest opportunity. Multiple users of schemes may receive Accelerated Payment Notices before other users of a scheme.
  • There are heavy sanctions: HMRC will evaluate the behaviour of each serial avoider and this could result in penalties for careless or deliberate behaviour or for any failure to disclose avoidance. Deliberately misleading or concealing information from HMRC could lead to prosecution and criminal conviction.

 As part of the ongoing clampdown on tax avoidance, HMRC has set up the new Serial Avoiders Unit (SAU) which will identify and tackle users of multiple avoidance schemes.

The specialist unit will offer a new hotline service to help people who have used multiple schemes and want to get their tax affairs in order. This will provide a single point of contact within HMRC to facilitate resolution of their tax affairs.

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