HMRC acted yesterday to defuse administrative problems and taxpayer anger over the call centre strike planned for 31 January by effectively extending the Self Assessment deadline until Thursday 2 February.
In a statement on its website, the department announced, “To make sure our customers are not disadvantaged if they cannot get through to HMRC's call centres on 31 January, we will not impose any late filing penalties for people who file their Self Assessment returns on 1 and 2 February.”
The SA deadline remains midnight on 31 January. But HMRC will treat all returns that come in by midnight on 2 February as though they were submitted by 31 January. No interest will be charged on payments due on 31 January that are paid on 1 or 2 February.
“We’ve always been very clear that we want the returns – not the penalties. For that reason, we don’t want anyone who can’t get through for help and advice on 31 January to be disadvantaged in any way,” explained Stephen Banyard, HMRC’s acting director general for personal tax.
AccountingWEB’s tax editor Rebecca Benneyworth heard the news informally on Thursday afternoon and commented in Any Answers: “HMRC's view is that although taxpayers could claim reasonable excuse (industrial action) it would be more sensible to give a blanket exemption from penalty for those two days, to allow for people who tried to phone and could not get through. The cost and disruption for both sides of appealing penalty notices was taken into account in coming to this decision.
“Personally, I welcome this very pragmatic step which is good for agents, taxpayers and HMRC. Thanks very much HMRC.”
AccountingWEB members were initially confused by the concession, with several moaning that it had come too late to be of much use.
But Martin Curtis took a different slant. “Just don't tell the clients!” he commented. “A two day extension has got to be good news but those who are going to leave things to the very last minute will continue to do so. I know I'm still going to be filing Returns for the late stragglers at silly o'clock on the 2nd.”
Sure enough, Ding Dong reported that one of his traditional last-minute clients who had arranged to drop off his paperwork on the 30th had texted yesterday afternoon: “Just heard on the radio the deadline extended. Can’t make Monday now, OK if I come over on Wed?”