HMRC loses case on helpdesk confusion

This month’s TAXtv episode uncovers a tax tribunal case involving an unhelpful helpline for self-assessment tax returns.

Among the cases discussed by TAXtv lecturers Tim Good and Giles Mooney is that of Louise Fernandez v HMRC (TCO1123), in which the taxpayer challenged two fines for filing here self-assessment tax returns 11 months late, on 3 December 2011.

The decision (yet to be published on the Finance & Tax Tribunal website) rekindles recent controversies surrounding HMRC service levels and post handling. After experiencing problems logging into the HMRC’s website to file Self Assessment tax returns, Fernandez said she emailed HMRC (using the email address she had been given by the taxman), to inform them of her difficulties accessing the site. She said that she had been given the wrong activation codes.

She didn’t receive a reply from HMRC. The tax department said that this was because Fernandez had emailed the VAT helpdesk rather than the Self Assessment helpdesk.

In his judgement, Geraint Jones, said in that it was unacceptable that HMRC had not replied to Fernandez’s email, which he said should have been forwarded to the relevant department.

He added: “It seems little point having a [Inland] Revenue helpline if it doesn’t offer any help.”

He accepted that Fernandez had a reasonable excuse for submitting her tax return late, but said that the second fine should stand, given that it took her another 11 months to file her return.

Giles says that the length of the delay in filing her return meant that HMRC’s second fine was “always going to stand”.

Other topics discussed in the June TAXtv episode include:

  • An interview with Keith Gordon
  • Michael Golding v HMRC benefits in kind tribunal decision
  • New fines for late PAYE payments
  • America’s offshore tax disclosure scheme.

Visit shop@accountingWEB to subscribe to TAXtv. TAXtv's free Budget round-up is also available, in which Tim Good, Giles Mooney and Neil Warren explain the key points of this year's announcements.