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HMRC self assessment late returns fines amnesty

If you are one of the nearly 900,000 individuals who sent in their self-assessment tax return after the January 31st 2015 deadline, you may have had a lucky escape from the £100 fine.

A report in the Telegraph newspaper says that tax officials at HMRC have been instructed not to make any checks on appeals from those hoping to avoid the fine.

This temporary amnesty from late payment fines has been permitted because HMRC have a huge backlog of correspondence from tax payers. Officials have been told that checking every appeal is not cost effective, so if any reasonable excuse is given the appeal will be granted automatically.

According to the HMRC website there needs to be a reasonable excuse such as:

  • your partner died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline
  • you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your tax affairs
  • your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return
  • service issues with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) online services
  • a fire prevented you from completing your tax return
  • postal delays that you couldn’t have predicted

However you do not need to provide evidence for any of these.

Some excuses are not acceptable to HMRC, such as:

  • you relied on someone else to send your return and they didn’t
  • your cheque bounced or payment failed because you didn’t have enough money
  • you found the HMRC online system too difficult to use
  • you didn’t get a reminder from HMRC

Be aware too that this reprieve is only temporary and that fines for late payment will still be made.  So make sure you keep on top of your financial reporting and get all your financial information over to your accountant in plenty of time this year.

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