RTI: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

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If the Red Lion Trading Partnership had understood the difference between penalties for late filing of RTI returns and penalties for late payment of PAYE, perhaps they wouldn’t have appealed against the late filing penalties.

Facts

The appeal by Red Lion Trading Partnership (TC07070) related to an RTI penalty issued by HMRC on 16 November 2018 in respect of the tax quarter ended 30 September 2018. The employer made a relevant payment to two employees on 26 August 2018, but the RTI return was not submitted until 7 September 2018.

A penalty of £400 was issued in respect of the August payment and a subsequent failure in the tax month ending 5 October 2018. For some reason, the second penalty was not appealed so it’s unclear if the employer thought the circumstances were different. This case, therefore, only concerned the £200 penalty related to the 26 August relevant payment.

HMRC had already cancelled late filing penalties issued to the same employer for the tax months ended 5 March 2018 and 5 April 2018. It appears that HMRC had applied a light touch and tried to educate the employer in their RTI obligations – with limited success.

Relevant payment vs payment of PAYE

HMRC’s employer education message was provided in a letter dated 28 June 2018, which at three points referred to the need to make an RTI return on, or before, a relevant payment is made to an employee.

Regulation 67B of the PAYE Regulations requires that a Full Payment Submission (FPS) is sent on, or before, a relevant payment is made. So, in this case at the latest by midnight on 26 August 2018.

Penalty calculation

A return filed late invokes a FA 2009, Sch 55 penalty that is geared to the number of employees on the FPS. A penalty of £200 is levied for each failure to make a return on time for an employer with between 10 and 49 employees. An employer can ask for the penalty to be cancelled if they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ for not making the return on time.

No reasonable excuse was offered in this case, as the employer relied on its assertion that the payment of the tax/NI due on the payment made on 26 August was made on 7 September 2018, the same day as the FPS was filed. The employer reasoned that this was not late as the payment would have been due by 22 September if paid electronically and by 19 September if paid by cheque (as a small employer is still entitled to do). The employer appeared to be unaware, despite HMRC’s education letter, that the £200 penalty was not for paying the PAYE late, but for filing the RTI return late ie after midnight on 26 August.

HMRC action

In this case, HMRC acted more than reasonably. It cancelled the first two late filing penalties and tried to educate the employer. When the employer did not change its behaviour, HMRC issued a properly geared penalty as there were no special circumstances that would provide for it to be reduced from the amount set in FA 2009, Sch 55.

In contrast, the employer did not heed the HMRC’s education letter. It did not appreciate that its payroll processes were wrong and offered no reasonable excuse other than that payment wasn’t late, which had nothing to do with the penalty.

Actual payment date

I assume that the payment date in the FPS sent by Red Lion showed: 26 August 2018. If it had shown 7 September 2018, then HMRC would have not been able to establish if payment was made on 26 August unless that payment was made by BACS, and was hash-matched to show to which FPS payment it related.

This is the problem we have with the PAYE regulations that require a return to be made on, or before, a relevant payment is made and the late filing penalty which is based on the payment date in the FPS. So, whilst filing should take place on, or before, the date of the relevant payment, the date in the FPS should be the contractual payment date.

Easter 2019

This is crucial for the Easter weekend. Any contractual payment dates of 19 to 22 April that are paid on Thursday 18 April as it is the last banking day before the bank holiday, should be filed by midnight on 18 April but must have a payment date in the FPS of the contractual payment date of 19 to 22 April. This ensures the earnings are correctly allocated to the correct Universal Credit (UC) award period. Using a payment date of 18 April 2019 could lead to the earnings being recorded in the wrong UC assessment period.

The April Employer Bulletin covers this in more detail.

About Kate Upcraft

Kate is a technical writer, editor and lecturer on all aspects of employing people - primarily payroll and HR matters.

Replies

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24th Apr 2019 12:37

Just goes to show how stupid the system is, that you get fined for not submitting something before you make the payment yet the tax isn't due until a few weeks later and no tax loss to the Exchequer.

The fines are structured badly so the minimum is way too high for the 1-2 employee companies who are most likely to 'offend'.

And apart from UC, there is no real difference in reporting a payment made on the 26th on that date or a day or two later (say by the end of the PAYE period which runs to the following 5th...).

It's almost as if the system is designed to collect penalties!

It's all needlessly complicated. Designed by committee...

Thanks (4)
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to Ian McTernan CTA
24th Apr 2019 14:05

Surely not? We are customers of HMRC. And any organisation which is customer-facing has as its maxim 'The customer is always right'. No organisation would create a needlessly complicated system to annoy its customers.

Thanks (1)
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By Dandan
25th Apr 2019 18:42

I am totally on the side of the taxpayer here.

The whole system is ridiculous. What is the point of punishing someone who is just a few days late. What is the loss to HMRC here?

I also find reference to HMRC trying to "educate" the taxpayer (4 times in the article) quite distasteful. Why do we need to be educated in matters of stupidity.

The truth is most of us get by and carry out out responsibilities in the end. Thankfully, we do not get punished if we leave something burning in the oven or pick up our child late from school or get lost when trying to get somewhere. HMRC need to reassure us there are humans working at their offices.

Finally, please let's not have the usual cliche that late tax payers are depriving people of important social services, etc.

Given that £56 billion of taxpayers' earnings is being thrown down the drains through HS2 (some rail network that will supposedly shorten our journey between Leeds, Manchester and London by some 20 minutes, it really hurts to see the deductions on my payslip. There are a multitude of such wasteful projects.

I would also add that I see exactly why the taxpayer relied on the fact that they had paid PAYE early. For them , and for me, this is mitigation. However, practicality does not exist in law and regulations.

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to Dandan
01st May 2019 10:19

Actually some schools do fine parents if they are late picking up their child from school

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