Late self-assessors alerted to 'reasonable excuses'

Taxpayers who missed last month’s self-assessment deadline should rapidly check whether their circumstances qualify as a “reasonable excuse” to quash their late-filing penalty.

Issuing the alert, a charity said such self-assessors should appeal the penalty within 30 days and not be “put off” if their reason fails to “exactly fit” with the ‘reasonable excuses’ listed.

In particular, it is not just victims of the ongoing Somerset floods that HM Revenue & Customs says have a ‘reasonable excuse’ to have missed the January 31st deadline.

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group added: “Unforeseen pressure of work [is] normally….not acceptable, but if the taxpayer had a sudden and unexpected and significant increase in unforeseen work, this may be a reasonable excuse.”

Unexpected or unforeseen postal delays also qualify as a ‘reasonable excuse’ in HMRC’s eyes for not filing a self-assessment tax return on time, as do ‘problems with online filing.’

But the latter excuse is mainly reserved for taxpayers who registered for the Revenue’s online service between Jan 21 and Jan 31, but who did not receive their activation codes by the deadline.

It also covers taxpayers who tried to access their online account between Jan 21 and Jan 31, but forgot their user ID or password and had requested replacements by the deadline.

“Remember that penalty notices will normally be issued automatically, so individuals may have to appeal against a penalty if they qualify for a reasonable excuse,” reminded LITRG’s Anthony Thomas.

“Concerned individuals should do this within 30 days of the penalty notice being issued, including full details of why the return was late. A copy of the appeal notice should be included with the penalty notice.”

The group added that some taxpayers with late-filing penalties may be able to claim them back from their accountant, assuming the accountant had all the data “in good time” but still failed to file the return by Jan 31.

“In all cases full details must be sent to HMRC and it may be that a combination of reasons, rather than any one reason, together may constitute a reasonable excuse,” said Mr Thomas.

“In any case, any outstanding returns should be lodged and outstanding taxes paid without further delay… [because] after a return is three months late, penalties will increase significantly.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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