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Pipped by the post? SA and proof of delivery

8th Oct 2008
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AIA

A recent case heard by the Special Commissioners illustrates that the lack of a written receipt for a return delivered by hand might cost you more than you anticipate. You may have to prove the posting to a tribunal.

In Ransom v HMRC SPC708, the taxpayer's adviser delivered an amended tax return by hand to an office of HMRC outside normal hours on the evening of 31 January 2003 (the deadline for making amendments to the taxpayer's self-assessment tax return being 31 January 2003 under s 9ZA TMA 1970).

Security staff at the tax office refused to give a receipt for the return and HMRC argued that the amended return was not delivered by hand but was only sent by a letter received by HMRC after the 31 January 2003 deadline.

After a detailed examination of the evidence, which involved the timely exercise of interviewing both advisers and HMRC, the Special Commissioner held that the amended return had, on the balance of probabilities, been delivered by hand to HMRC by the 31 January deadline. The amended return was accepted.

Commentary
The Special Commissioner found that the combination of a slightly over stretched tax advisers and a lack of system controls in HMRC's post-room were a receipe for disaster. Advisers would fare better by filing online, or by filing paper returns during office hours.

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By mikewhit
14th Oct 2008 10:45

Last resort
Since HMRC have such wide powers to investigate now, maybe you could also make a phone call as you hand over the papers in person (and craftily video the reception desk person accepting it).

The mobile phone cell logs will show your location and time ...

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By leon0001
13th Oct 2008 19:22

Royal Mail evidence
Did you know that the Royal Mail "Signed for" terms only promise evidence of delivery. The date of delivery is not always available. Special Delivery proof may (or may not) include the words "delivered before the guaranteed time." You must keep the original Post Office receipt which identifies the item, delivery address, date of posting and guaranteed time and date of delivery.

If you have to hand deliver to a local HMRC enquiry office, take a colleague to witness the delivery of the return. It is also useful, where you must sign in and out of the building, to keep a note of the times and, if available, visitor pass or log entry number. This may be useful in proving that you attended the office at the relevant time. You should always attach a covering letter to front page of the return, clearly marked "DELIVERED BY HAND TO ..... ENQUIRY OFFICE".

In short, only file paper returns as a last resort.

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Rebecca Benneyworth profile image
By Rebecca Benneyworth
13th Oct 2008 17:41

That happens here too
HMRC accept that any returns in the post box early morning of 1st February are treated as received by the deadline. However, that isn't the problem here. The issue is when a return has been hand delivered one or two days before the deadline but is then mysteriously recorded as "late".

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Basset Hound
By Cuchulainn
13th Oct 2008 15:22

The Isle of Man Government gives the benefit of the doubt
It is Isle of Man Government policy to open mailboxes on public buildings around 8 am on each working day. Any post which is retrieved from them at that time is treated as having been delivered the previous working day.

A simple way of giving people the benefit of the doubt.

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By stephenkendrew
13th Oct 2008 11:59

sorry Mark....
.... but I don't agree.

The issue was whether the amendment to the tax return was hand-delivered to the Worthing Tax Office on 31 January, as claimed by the Chartered Accountant who did the hand-delivering, or posted to the tax office in Middlesborough and received on 7 February, as claimed by HMRC.

Whilst the implications were much more than a £100 late filing penalty, this all depended upon when HMRC received the amendment.


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By Anonymous
13th Oct 2008 11:32

It was as simple...
Sorry to butt[***] in Mark, I feel you are confusing what is relevant in this decision.

The Mansworth v Jelly, part might well be what "miffed" HMRC perhaps lack of judgment on its part pushed this case as far as a tribunal? The important lesson for us all is about proof of posting and getting those returns (amended or not) in on time.

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Rebecca Benneyworth profile image
By Rebecca Benneyworth
11th Oct 2008 12:51

One wonders...
what message HMRC were trying to get across by taking this case to the Commissioners. And whether they have actually acheived what they set out to do by doing so.

The relationship between the profession and the tax authority sinks to a new low with the reporting of this case, because it includes all of the elements of the fractured relationship. HMRC try to change behaviour by refusing to give receipts (forcing people towards filing online). This is probably also a staffing issue - reducing the burden on local offices in late January. Some returns CANNOT be filed online - and an amended return (until now) is one of those. Many agents (myslef included) WANT to file everything online and are frustrated by what we see as slow additional functionality. Then we get this truly shocking case of an adviser having to turn out to go to the tax office and being refused a receipt, followed by the indignity of being called a liar. (And maybe in future refused the right to take evidential photographs to protect himself from such an outcome).

Will someone PLEASE bang heads and start from the point that this is not the way to build a working relationship. We are not supposed to be at war. This case really plumbs the depths. There must be a solution to this type of scenario - which must occurr in numbers of hundreds each year if we include arguments about late filing penalties.

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By stephenkendrew
09th Oct 2008 20:39

Excellent point Jessica!
The witness in this case, who hand-delivered the return, is a chartered accountant!

It's interesting to see that something hand-delivered to their Woking office, but meant for Middlesborough, was sent, by courier, first of all to Cumbernauld, then to Louth (Leicestershire) and finally to Middlesborough.

No wonder they keep losing things!

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By Anonymous
09th Oct 2008 19:41

Proof of delivery
HMRC won't give receipts even if items are delivered by hand during office hours. I was told that this was official policy a couple of years ago - presumably because they get inundated on 31 January. They won't even sign a prepared receipt.

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By Antony Rose
09th Oct 2008 17:50

Not allowed to take photos - you steal their souls!
One of my partners was told he could not take a photo in the HMRC office. Can't see why not - it's not as though they have a soul to lose....

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4657798.stm

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By mikewhit
09th Oct 2008 13:24

Evidence ...
Since most recent phones contain a camera with video/sound recording facility (just ensure there's enough space in the memory card), it's maybe time to whip this out at the appropriate time and capture the transaction for HMRC posterity - if you are worried !

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