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The demise of the £100 penalty

11th Feb 2015
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According to an HMRC press release issued on 2 February around 4.3m customers filed their personal tax returns in January.

Approximately 2.5m (7% of the total of number of submissions) missed the deadline resulting in rather large bonus to the Treasury, says Jennifer Adams.

This amount has the potential to increase if the new system of penalties detailed in a recently issued consultation paper is implemented. Together with the previous consultation paper Direct Recovery of Debts this paper headed ‘HMRC Penalties:  A discussion paper’ is arguably the most important HMRC consultation to date. The text refers to all penalties, automatic or otherwise including late filing penalties but uses the late submission of personal returns and the VAT surcharge as examples.

The reason for the consultation

The paper states that HMRC is considering different methods and level of penalties with the aim of encouraging taxpayers to comply with their obligations.  The word ‘encouragement’ is used frequently throughout the paper but the real reason for the consultation can be found on page nine section 4.3 under ‘Automated Penalties’, namely that it costs to collect relatively small amounts of penalties. HMRC believes that they could be adding more to the governments’ coffers by concentrating on defaulters who are more persistent or those who, when brought to account, have the potential to owe larger amounts of tax. HMRC is aware that it already issues a large number of low-value penalties and know that there will be more to come when smaller firms are hit by penalties under RTI as from October.

Main suggestion

The main suggestion is to replace the current financial-based system with one based on ‘penalty points’ similar to the loading used by insurance companies for motor claims. The first failure will result in a penalty letter but no penalty points being allocated, subsequent defaults will incur points, the exact number being depended on the frequency of default and the amount of tax owed. HMRC believes that this system of points will provide an increased ‘credible threat’ to compliance.

Apparently it intends not to penalise customers who are a few days late, but we all know clients who leave it to the last minute, and giving them a couple of days leeway will only mean that they will take advantage despite having  nine months to submit. The 31 January deadline is known to all taxpayers and permitting leniency will surely only confuse matters.

One area that HMRC has not considered is that with motor insurance penalties are ‘wiped off’ after 10 years. The question must be asked as to when taxpayers’ penalties will be wiped off, if at all.

Use of personalised customer accounts

It is intended that personalised customer accounts will be in place by 2018. These accounts will enable the differing types of tax paid by any one customer to be viewed on one screen similar to the online screen page used by banks.  This facility will be of use to practitioners and taxpayers alike but on reading further through the consultation paper it is clear that HMRC intends to use the account information in an attempt to achieve higher penalties.  The intention is not flagged but on page 13 section 5.8 are the words ‘we may need to move away from applying penalties on a tax-by-tax basis and towards a penalty system based on the overall position of the customer.’ This can only mean points being allocated and penalties charged on the total amount of tax unpaid whichever type of return or payment is late.

A minor benefit of the personalised taxpayers account will be the enabling of pre-populated returns similar to the software used by accountants.

Taxpayers’ ‘behaviour’

The report states that HMRC will be looking at taxpayers’ behaviour following the creation of personal accounts; this phrase is not explained in the text and HMRC will need to elaborate. What is clear is that HMRC will be looking for a pattern of non submission or late payment and allocate penalty points accordingly. Obviously this will have implications for the calculation of interest charges.

It must be hoped that they will not be automatic in their assumptions and appreciate that if a taxpayer is submitting or paying late for all or a couple of taxes that there may be something wrong with his business, cashflow wise and therefore need help in formulating a tax payment strategy.

Other comments

  • The paper requests comment as to whether the use of higher interest rates would act as an ‘encouragement’ for due submission of returns. The current rate of 3% is already higher than the bank rate – whether a higher interest rate would persuade those defaulters to submit on time is questionable
  • What is certain is that HMRC could possibly encourage sooner and more often. As they apparently have such a sophisticated computer system they should be able to pick out those who are first time defaulters and make an effort to explain the system more effectively. HMRC’s Digital Strategy is for contact with customers via email. Should emails be targeted – e.g. issued on a monthly basis to all who have not submitted? Companies House already sends emails reminders for submission
  • It would be interesting to know how many of the late submitters are represented. If proportionally few then HMRC’s efforts need not be  concentrated on those ‘customers’ as accountants are already doing all they can as indicated under a recent Any Answers reply. Or would such reminders help accountants in their task?
  • As with nearly all HMRC consultation papers issued to date nothing is mentioned about the effect this new system could have for taxpayers who do not have access to a computer or who are otherwise vulnerable. HMRC has not even done enough to explain their current methods to many of their customers who do want to pay so it is doubtful that they can be relied upon to convey such a complicated system with efficiency. The recent non issue of payslips is in point. Some taxpayers are still unaware that they cannot pay at the Post Office or that their HMRC local office is no more
  • HMRC is interested in knowing practitioners’ opinions as to whether every default should trigger a penalty. Many practitioners believe that it is unfair to charge the £100 penalty to those whose tax bill turns out to be nil. Some taxpayers do not appreciate that just because they are PAYE they are still required to submit a return if asked by HMRC. Again, HMRC’s sophisticated computer system should be able to name these customers and not include them in the points system

The main accounting bodies will be submitting their comments by the deadline date of 11 May 2015.

AccountingWEB will also be submitting a response on behalf of members to include any comments made to this article.

Replies (36)

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By Jekyll and Hyde
12th Feb 2015 08:47

I feel that a scale penalty charge for late filing .....
...... would be a great idea.

1st time offender £100.
2nd time offender £500
3rd time offender £1000

In my experience we have seen that compliance work is hugely under rated and the good governance businesses and individuals are lumbered with unnecessary tax costs and burdens associated with this class of individual who I'm most cases simply doesn't care.

It may also see more taxpayers providing the tax advisor with their records sooner, rather than the last minute.

my view would be to extend the filing deadline to 12 months for tax returns and then to implied the increased late filing penalties.

I would also increase the RTI and CIS filing deadlines to 1 month after the period end and start to role out the RTI penalties.

as with all systems, we need to have a fair and sensible appeals systems so let's have a fair suspended penalty system for all taxes/late filing penalties for the first timers and have fair and reasonable HMRC staff control this (which we do not have at the moment).

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By stepurhan
12th Feb 2015 09:44

Penalty limits

Restoring the limit on penalties to the tax due would be a big step forward (or back, given it was that way in the past). We have had a few cases of people burying their head in the sand, racking up penalties, who either didn't owe anything or, due to CIS or similar, were actually due refunds. No-one deliberately doesn't claim a refund due to them, so penalties aren't needed to encourage people not to do it.

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Replying to Accountant A:
17th Feb 2015 16:14

CIS subcontractors

Excellent point - no tax due no penalty . If they continue to ignore their responsibilities put them on 30% tax deduction . Common sense .

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By johnjenkins
12th Feb 2015 10:19

It is the

way we do business in this country that causes most tax payers to be not compliant enough for HMRC.

We are a nation that doesn't like being told what to do and how to do it. Again what is the point of racking up penalties that the tax payer cannot afford to pay. Why tax geared penalties? Only to increase the coffers not to deter.

Those tax payers that have the money and just won't pay should be taken to court. Rules should not be made to penalise the majority when it's only a minority that fall foul.

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By CJaneH
13th Feb 2015 13:27

I do not object to the £100

I do not object to the £100 penalty as some people do need to treat deadlines with some respect. The £10 a day penalty for 90 days is horrendous for people owing very little tax. If there are several years outstanding this quickly mounts up.


HMRC need to chase people more and not just send an occasional letter or statement.



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By DMGbus
13th Feb 2015 13:56

No liability = no penalty

It used to be the case that under self-assessment (and still is the case with VAT returns) that

" no tax liability payable = no penalty payable "

This is (for VAT) and was (for SA) a very sensible and fair rule.

I would like it extended to include SA again and other taxes such as CT.

I do support the proposition of penalties to encourage compliance so here's the one and only way for such panalties to be fair:

Initial / first penalty must be issued within 2 weeks of non compilance (*)Must be rescinded / restricted to no more than any unpaid tax liability owing at the due date

BOTH 1 and 2 must be enshrined in law and regulstions to be fair otherwise UK HMRC might be in breach of European Humand Rights (probably is at the moment?) in terms of "confiscation of assets" unfairly.

(*) To counteract any potential over zealous HMRC culture where a taxpayer unknowingly builds up £100 per month penalties.   Also to counteract cases where Tribunal appeals might be heard by bised in favour of HMRC supporters rather than hearers of fairplay and commonsense.


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By ianthetaxman
16th Feb 2015 11:34

Penalties should be hard but fair

I agree with others that the old 'no tax = no penalty' was a workable system, as it would encourage payment of liabilities, if not the submission of the return, and for those who had nothing to pay, there was no risk of a penalty.


That said, for those who are still shocked by the thought of being issued with a penalty, or those who have various conspiracy theories about how HMRC logs and uses information, a penalty for late submission regardless of the tax due is probably a good thing, as we as the advisor can justifiably use it as a suitable encouragement for those clients who are dealt with at the end of January.


I fear, however, that for many, the £100 late fling penalty has never been much of a deterrent and those who are regularly dealt with at the last minute will continue to view such a meagre charge as nothing to worry about.  


A points system may be the answer, as under the current system, it is often cheaper for the client to be charged a penalty rather than paying an additional professional fee for a provisional return to be submitted, or increased fees (as some contributors suggest) for January rush jobs, all to avoid the £100 charge.


However, we must not encourage any changes to the system that would make the 31 January submission date almost optional.  I can see that this might create a more relaxed approach to the annual filing deadline, but how long would it be before we would be back to the pre SA days where three years returns were being submitted at a time!  

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By lindsay.tosh
16th Feb 2015 11:50

I agree that a more graduated response is essential. Clients view HMRC as a brutal and uncaring machine dedicated to extracting the maximum from its "victims" rather than an efficient and thoughtful servant of the public seeking to obtain the government's fair share. I accept that there needs to be some sanction and that interest payments alone will not work but it needs to appear just and reasonable. Lastly, they need to get their own house in order before sanctioning us. I recently spent 59 minutes hanging on a phone before giving up and then 30 minutes the following day before getting an answer to a query that only they could answer. I reckon they are due me an automatic £100!

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16th Feb 2015 11:54

PAYE / CIS penalties

RTI penalties will be coming in soon and will be automated and no doubt create a huge burden on payroll companies to try and keep client's disciplined with both returns AND payments ( how do you do that? ) . Can we trust the HMRC IT department to have set up this system properly ? I foresee time consuming appeals and penalties churned out in the millions . Why is everything £100 for this ; £100 for the other ; another £100 here , another £100 there . Hugely in favour of revising cash penalties to a monitoring system maybe connected to opening enquiries on persistent offenders or actual visits from HMRC officers to provide some kind of real threat / guidance . Businesses not paying their PAYE or other taxes are hardly going to be bothered by fines but making them face up to an enquiry and maybe see what else they are up to and it might just changed some attitudes . Genuine errors , time delays in submissions , etc. will potentially incur generally diligent taxpayers pedantic penalties and is not they way forward for me . What if our internet conection goes down for a week ?? Every client will get £100 late filing penalty - it is ridiculous . We have seen MGD penalties churned out for HMRC to climb down and cancel the whole lot the system was so bad .

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By sbt
16th Feb 2015 12:03

Get more strict

I think the penalties and interest rates should be increased as they don't act as a big enough deterrent.


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By johnjenkins
16th Feb 2015 12:07

And then

we will have AE penalties. That should give the government a nice income for a few years. What next one wonders.

All these systems are set up with a pretext of penalties. Not, let's set up a system and see how it works. Then work out how it could work better.

The mindset is penalties right from the start. This is not good because it takes the focus away from whether the system is working or correct.

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By johnjenkins
16th Feb 2015 12:10


yer let's penalise tax payers out of existence. Gently squeeze an orange and you get all the juice. Hit it with a hammer and the juice goes all over the place.

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By Springfield
16th Feb 2015 12:21

Stick & carrot

Nowhere in this discussion paper does it say what HMRC want to achieve in terms of the timing of SA returns.  Do they prefer a steady 10% a month over 10 months to ease their workflow?  if so there should be an incentive payment to those that file early in the return window.

Secondly, the public and ourselves seem to meekly accept the hugely unbalanced and unfair system we are operating under.  One day late and a £100 fine.  Yet, try writing a letter to HMRC and see if you get a credible reply within three months.  Or try sorting out a PAYE refund in a single phone call.  As they impose such harsh terms on us they should accept the same professional standards and we should be able to levy "fines" on late, inadequate or non-existent responses.

Thirdly, penalties which turn out to be incorrectly imposed should be "punished" with a double refund.  At the moment there is no downside to HMRC sending out thousands of incorrect penalties but if they had to pay back £200 for every £100 penalty sent out in error it might concentrate their minds on them getting it right first time.

The system is completely one-sided and we're letting them get away with it!






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By taxbakbristol
16th Feb 2015 12:30


I never agreed with having to pay a penalty when you owed no tax or received a refund.

That is wrong and its HMRC abusing its position.

I would not expect to pay a penalty for not submitting a form if I had nothing (NIL) to report.

It seems that its one way to me, I have clients who are still waiting for thousands of pounds due from CIS ......who cares about this....I have listened to HMRC banging on about naughty people who cannot submit a form on time but all I hear from HMRC regarding millions of pounds owing on the awful CIS is silence.

l#Let them bring themselves up to some where that's recognisable as fit for purpose and then let the tax payer fine HMRC for their awful delays and sheer incompetence.

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By ringi
16th Feb 2015 12:59

Some thoughts…

The first penalty should be able to be wiped off if someone agrees to go on a course, just line when you get your first speeding ticket for 33mph in a 30pmh zone.

There MUST be penalties for late returns even if the tax payer does not own any tax, as otherwise HMRC can never know that is going on.   (I think there should be a double penalty for late return AND late payment of more then £100 tax.)

Any penalties a company gets should be payable personally by the chairman of the board, and shown on his/her personal credit record - otherwise doing returns on time will not be seen as important.  It should be illegal of have insurance to cover this cost, likewise for the company to refund the cost.

When an employer is late with the P60 or P11D, the employee should have a hot-line they can phone.   The employee should be given a reward for reporting it and the company chairman charged a large penalty, as otherwise how can you expect people to do their personally tax returns on time?

What about a negative penalty for submitting your return on line more than 90 days early for self assessment and corporation tax – likewise when vat and PAYE returns are done more than  14 days early.

Agents should also be charged a fine, if more than x% of their long term clients gets penalties – this should be worked out so that so more than 1% of agents get hits with the fines. 

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By tedbuck
16th Feb 2015 14:35


Leave the £100 as it is as it is a good stick to beat the client with.

Scrap the £10 per day and substitute a further £100 every thee months.

The PAYE penalties and CIS penalties are outrageous and should be drastically reduced.

Let's have a reverse penalty of £50 for every unreplied to letter over thee weeks old - HMRC could always negotiate a monthly standing order to us based on the number of unreplied to letters from us. Fantastic - we do their work for them anyway.


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By michaelblake
16th Feb 2015 14:37

make your views known

I would encourage all those who have commented to make their views known to HMRC by responding to the consultation. It is very easy to do and can be done by email.

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By alltaxedout
16th Feb 2015 14:51

Can we add up?

2.5m missed = 7% of submissions. Surely this is rubbish? That would mean 36m tax returns! What am I missing?

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By User deleted
16th Feb 2015 15:31

3% interest ...

... higher than banks? - I don't think those who can't afford their tax bill would get a overdraft rate that low!

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By johnjenkins
16th Feb 2015 16:26

HMRC know our views and have done for years.

They totally ignore what we have to say. Consultations are just a PR exercise.

The only time they change things is when they start losing money or not getting as much as first thought.

WT, Agent strategy OTS, all PR that has really come to nothing.

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By nathan666
16th Feb 2015 17:04

Stick and carrot

Keep the £100 penalty but reward early payers. Surely the government would prefer people paid there tax early, so they could encourage good behaviour. I think giving money off would encourage a much better spread of workload!



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By CoxE
17th Feb 2015 11:40

The consultation on the future of penalties

I, together I am sure with a good many of my peers, have long felt that the penalty system in its present guise, is far too often applied either disproportionately or inappropriately.  As penalties are triggered automatically and mechanically, this is understandable but the counter balance of "reasonable excuse" has an entire department dedicated to rejection as its default position. 

The costs of taking an appeal to the FTT are prohibitive in all but the most serious penalty cases and, because the penalties in question are not occasioned by any "enquiry" from HMRC, normal fee protection insurance cannot help, leaving an unquantifiable number being accepted as a matter of pragmatism.

What the consultative document gives away, perhaps, is that an equally unquantifiable number result only in HMRC incurring fruitless recovery costs and no penalty, as many of us already suspect.

The existing penalty framework is little understood whilst that which is proposed would be nothing short of incomprehensible to the lay person, presumably leaning further one of the most iniquitous aspects of our tax system - the totally unrealistic expectation that the UK taxpayer has a full working knowledge of the worlds longest and most complex tax code, any absence of which constitutes noe excuse, reasonable or otherwise.  Oh for a level playing field!!





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By johnjenkins
17th Feb 2015 11:56


take the attitude that they can find something wrong (and therefore penalise) with every tax payers submissions. When they come across a tax payer that hasn't done anything wrong and hasn't made a mistake they cannot understand it, and of course, keep fishing until their costs soar.

As I have said before, the focus is on penalties so it never will be a level playing field.

If a return is not in on time then yes a £100 penalty and that's it. All HMRC have to do is start an enquiry into that year, then, if there is a tax liability, interest will be added (normal enquiry penalties apply).

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17th Feb 2015 13:16

Raise the penalty

£100 is nothing these days and has not changed in years. No deterrent at all.

Raise the penalty to £1,000 that would get an immediate response from those who are consistently late. 


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By johnjenkins
17th Feb 2015 14:16

Raise the

40% tax bracket threshold to £100k. That would make more sense.

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By tedbuck
17th Feb 2015 15:44


Your correspondent suggested that we should let HMRC know what we think. They pay lip service to comments in the main. 

I volunteered to do one of their customer surveys but it was so slanted and aimed at a certain and favourable response that I refused to continue with it.

A complaint to HMRC about the lack of any way to notify them quickly of a Company's dormancy was met with the claim that a letter would be dealt with timeously!

We can all laugh at that! So I sent them copies of the letters I had sent which even now some 6 months later have not even been acknowledged. No response was the reply.

And Lyn Homer got a bonus out of the Taxpayers' pockets.

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By User deleted
17th Feb 2015 16:40

Just had a new client in ...

... did her own first ever tax return as she had started a small amount fo freelance work. Screwed up the tax return royally and got a £21k refund paid direct to her account.

They now want a 30% penalty being the lowest option for the mid-tier offence thay have assessed it as.

Client did call HMRC when refund arose and but couldn't get through, in her job she is not able to sit on the phone all day! She did get through and they arranged to call her at a specified time and date but they did not.

Now I agree she should have realised tax return was wrong, but what sort of system to HMRC have that does not flag a refund that is around 50% of the gross income - to me they are as negligent as the client in not having a system that would highlight repayment well outside the scope of what is expected, especially as 95% of the income had been reported to them via PAYE - really is 6 of one here and a £7k penalty to someone earning around £25k is not just or equitable on any scale!

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By User deleted
17th Feb 2015 16:43

Went to AE seminar today ...

... the AE penalties are harsh as it is serious and the pension regulator is there to protect the workers!

Myself, I don't see how putting firms out of business through excessive fines due to not understanding horrifically complex and over-burdensome rules and thus making workers unemployed will protect them.

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
17th Feb 2015 20:18

Message from author of article - Jennifer Adams

Thank you to everyone who has entered a comment to my article.

Just to confirm I will be submitting a response to the consultation by the due date on behalf of Accweb members. I try to do this for all consultations that Accweb feels are relevant to our members.

I write an article (including my own thoughts based on what I think will be the potential impact on my clients), I then pull together all your ideas/comments/moans (?) into a formal presentation document, submit and then wait for the HMRC consultation response to be issued. If of interest I will write a 'follow' up explaining their response.

They do notice that we are responding - if you look at the final page of a consultation response report that we have responded to you will see that the Accweb name is shown (obviously towards the top because of our name!). e.g the one on Direct Recovery of Debts here:

As to whether HMRC actually take notice - overall I think they might be listening but I also think that the main idea will still go forward whatever we say - see my article on the subject

HMRC Consultations: have they listened?

PS > In this 'Demise of the £100' article I mentioned potential RTI penalties - the article was obviously written before todays announcement see Johns article HMRC softens plans for RTI penalties


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By J Lessels
18th Feb 2015 09:01

Tax Geared Penalties Yes

Penalties should be related to payment. Remember the whole tax system is about people paying. The paperwork is a means to that end not an end in itself.

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By James26
18th Feb 2015 16:48

Re: Increasing penalties

Something like the CT late payment regime.  So £100 first time, £100 second time, £500 third time you file late in a row.  £100 sends the message that you should do this, if someone does this the second time then clearly they don't see this as penal enough.  Therefore the third time they then deserve more, maybe it should then double each year after that but reset back down when a return is filed on time.  The £500 and higher could then also attract some kind of points, perhaps count towards any tax geared penalty / general risk assets etc.

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By johnjenkins
18th Feb 2015 17:22


Yep just keep on penalising until the company goes skint and HMRC have to write off the penalties that really shouldn't have been issued in the first place.

As you can see I m not a friend of compliance, because it doesn't work. That's why HMRC are looking at it.

No good going to Hodge and co saying we are owed umpteen million but we really can only collect 60% because the rest is penalties which we gotta write off.

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Replying to Accountant A:
By James26
23rd Feb 2015 17:32


If a company hasn't filed its returns for three years then it probably deserves to be skint and hopefully struck off the register as well.  Don't forget these repeat offenders do actually absorb HMRC time as well so there needs to be some sensible level of incentive to get people to comply.  The old £100 penalty disappears if no tax to pay didn't really work from what people have said.

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By tedbuck
19th Feb 2015 11:24

Penalties - a digression

A correspondent mentions AE and its penalties.

I cannot understand how a government can be so stupid as to start a system which lumps small businesses and large ones into the same pot.

BP may be able to afford to spent thousands of £s ticking boxes and filling in forms but the local newsagent certainly can't. On imagines that they will all end up in NEST which, being Government sponsored will be mucked about with by successive Governments and produce a poor return.

Why not

Have a government, funded pension scheme into which everyone pays.

Allow Companies to opt out if their own pension funds meet a set target.

Facilitate people going in and out of the scheme when they change employment.

Thus save everyone a huge amount of paperwork which, inevitably, will come out of profits/ wages because there is nowhere else for it to come from.

Perhaps they could call it 'National Insurance'.

Do you know that wouldn't have a major impact on the ability of business to be productive which the ridiculous record keeping of AE will definitely do. Did you know that the Government cannot understand why we as a country are not more productive? I should think we have all given up in despair.



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21st Feb 2015 03:10


1. Underlying reason for change is to get more money for doing nowt.

2. Outcome of consultation probably pre determined anyway.

3. Personally, as well as the deterrent, which should be much more than 100, I think there should be a substantial carrot for early submission as well.

4. As part of my service to my clients I ensure that their returns are submitted as early as possible to avoid last minute complications. Waiting until the deadline is, in my opinion, unprofessional as there is nothing to gain.

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By taxbakbristol
24th Feb 2015 01:35

Persisitent Late Filers

I prefer to call them persistent late filers as they have not committed a crime of any note!


They are the same ones  every year and I have clients who are due refunds who still amas penalties of £4000!

Yes, Give them a carrot as I do not believe the stick woks .......unless HMRC want the penalty monies more than on time filers?????

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