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Crikey! Snowed in!

7th Jan 2010
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January and a bigger challenge than usual. Absolutely no chance of getting anywhere except on foot. In common with many living in this part of Gloucestershire, we have to go uphill to get anywhere. We live on the side of a hill, and the entrance to our house is a steep drive, which in this weather is a no-go - and even after that it's country lanes and then more hills. So here I sit, waiting for books, records, answers to queries. I'm lucky that my office is based at home, so that I can "get to work" and have no staff to rely on - many firms must already be getting worried about tax returns even if they have the work in. For me, I know that even if I can get out I am exteremly unlikely to be able to get to any of those clients I am waiting to hear from - they are all even more rural than me.

So should HMRC extend the deadline for tax returns due at the end of January as a number have already suggested? Well first, it is not that easy. The tax return deadline is set by primary legislation, so in reality changing that won't happen, however desperate things become. Should, however, the tax authority do anything to help those worried about the impact of the weather? You can be certain there will be no quarter given by Companies House, as their response to the recent postal strikes demonstrated!

The question really only affects agents as they are the ones with the problems, not able to get to the office, not able to get to see clients. Individual taxpayers preparing their own returns should not really be affected by this. And agents should realise that formally extending the deadline isn't going to be the answer - or even possible. So what can the tax authority do, if anything? Well the truth is that we have the answer already. If any taxpayer is not able to submit his return on time he will not be liable to a penalty if he has a reasonable excuse for the failure and the return is submitted as soon as possible after the reasonable excuse ends. I have no doubt that the current weather conditions would present "reasonable excuse" to those unable to submit their returns, and if HMRC wish to intervene now to calm the masses calling for extended deadlines, perhaps their best step would be to draw attention to the reasonable excuse provisions and confirm that agents should use these provisions if returns are unavoidably delayed after 31 January.

If we are talking about a few days or even a week of extra time without penalties this will answer the calls for an extended deadline "by a few days". I for one shall be using reasonable excuse forms whether HMRC makes an announcement or not if it comes down to that - and we are due more snow on both Sunday or Monday so it may well! Sling another chair leg on the fire, mother!


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Replies (3)

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By Gina Dyer
08th Jan 2010 14:15

Mixed response

Hope you've got lots of tinned foods stashed away Rebecca... looks like there's more snow on the way for you this weekend! As for me, I am donning my fluffy boots and skating down the high street!

We've had a mixed response to your question so far in the Twittersphere.

Here are a few so far:

@GaryMcC - " no - you get plenty of time so no excuse"

@StuartJones - "no - you get plenty of time so no excuse. Me too"

@cheapaccounting - "yes no post so can't get info from clients!"

@julianshaw - "Why? Got to file online anyway"

Boom_shanks - "tax returns? what are those? ha"

What do other members think?

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By Gina Dyer
08th Jan 2010 15:42

Online poll

We've just launched an online poll to see what members think of this. If you have an opinion either way, click here to cast your votes!

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By welsh_dragon
08th Jan 2010 23:39

Reasonable ?

Last year they initially refused to accept having a heart attack and being on life support for most of January as "reasonable" even after being presented with medical certification.

This has nothing to do with "deadlines" and "efficiency" and everything to do with [***] a bit more money out of the taxpayer to line the pockets of greedy MPs.

Rant over...........(for now).

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