I know we cannot hide behind the old agent and the client is unlikely to sue them for compensation.
The matter is before the Commissioners in early December. I will not claim 'reasonable excuse' for the non-submission of the Return, just that the amount is unreasonable.
Do the Commissioners have the power to vary the penalty if they agree that HMRC have acted unreasonably? The Clerk is very able (a solicitor) and I fear he will tell me going in that I cannot argue this.
Can anyone quote from similar experiences or name precedents to support me?
My grounds for saying that the penalty is unreasonable
In every other field I know of (CT, Self Assessment etc), HMRC send out regular statements of account. If you fail to file a Return by the first deadline, you get a penalty notice. So when you get the second penalty, you ought to know what you are in for. Besides, the first penalty will have triggered a series of statements of account.
By contrast, for Employers' PAYE they regularly save things until NINE penalties have fallen due - a "nice little earner" I have called it. If there are nine penalties, there should be nine Notices. If there is one notice, there should only be one penalty.
Most interesting is to examine why this is. I believe it is simply technical failings in their systems. We know that there are still 12 PAYE computers which we are told is why we cannot see statements of account online as we do with the other taxes. But that should not prevent Employers from being sent Statements of Account as a matter of course. I consistently find advising Employers about their liabilities the most difficult - like "seeing through a glass darkly".
And then there is the reason for the 9 months' delay. For the three years I have been involved with online P35s, that is about how long we have had to wait for things to process, due to the monstrous cock-ups with a system that makes us file by late May but cannot process without human intervention the other end.
Your comments please - I will tell you how we get on before the Commissioners. I think there is trouble ahead with CIS so this may be a useful topic for debate.