Share this content
Call centre worker

Taxpayer confused by HMRC call centre advice


A taxpayer wasn’t informed of the deadline for submitting a paper tax return when he spoke to HMRC, and as a result the first tier tribunal (FTT) reduced the late filing penalties imposed.

16th Nov 2021
Share this content

Puttock, the taxpayer at the centre of the FTT, registered as a sub-contractor under the construction industry scheme (CIS) in 2001, and his self assessment record was reactivated in November 2017, having been deactivated in 2004/05. He submitted an unsolicited 2016/17 return on 14 December 2017.

The tardy taxpayer did not file a 2017/18 return until he had received several reminders from HMRC. He submitted a paper return on the 24 July 2019, which should have been filed by 31 October 2018.


HMRC issued Puttock with an initial £100 penalty, followed by £900 of daily penalties and a 6-month penalty of £300.


Puttock appealed against these penalties, via his agent, saying he had a reasonable excuse for these reasons:

  • he had assumed his agent was dealing with the return but that they had been unresponsive when contacted.
  • he had suffered medical issues during the year
  • the penalty would cause financial hardship.

His agents added that Puttock had had no funds to pay them and currently had no funds to pay the penalties. They went on to say that Puttock had not believed a return was needed as he had not received one and, as no tax was due, hadn’t thought he needed to submit one.

Finally, Puttock had struggled to get the end of year summary information from his engager and so did not have the CIS information he needed to complete the return.

HMRC response

HMRC upheld the penalties, as reliance on an agent was not a reasonable excuse where the taxpayer could not demonstrate that they had taken all reasonable steps to meet their obligations.

Similarly, a lack of response from the engager could have been overcome by using the periodic statements issued over the tax year, or advice sought from HMRC as to how to proceed.

Finally, HMRC felt that they hadn’t had enough information as to Puttock’s ill health and so couldn’t consider it a reasonable excuse.

Register for free to continue reading

It’s 100% free and provides unlimited access to the latest accounting news, advice and insight every day. As well as access to this exclusive article, you can:

Content lock down, tick icon

View all AccountingWEB content

Content lock down, tick icon

Comment on articles

Content lock down, tick icon

Watch our digital shows and more

Access content now

Already have an account?

Replies (5)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By Paul Crowley
16th Nov 2021 14:15

Taxpayer was informed in writing when the return issued
Shame on FTT

Thanks (3)
By Hugo Fair
16th Nov 2021 21:51

With luck like that, taxpayer should go and invest in the Lottery.
His story (as reported here) was so full of holes as to make a colander look sea-worthy, and prone to changing direction with every slight breeze generated by HMRC.
There may be other unknowns in play but, as it stands, a very lucky taxpayer!

Thanks (2)
My photo
By Matrix
17th Nov 2021 06:54

So he submitted the return himself. Did he pay the agent for their representations?

Thanks (0)
By Arcadia
17th Nov 2021 10:43

Whatever the rights and wrongs leading to a penalty, the fact remains that the penalties are vastly disproportionate to the 'crime' or the harm suffered by HMRC. £940 is beyond the conception of most ordinary people. Compare it to say speeding, which involves threat to life, and the penalty is £100. Yes of course this gentleman was lax about his affairs, but the fact remains that the system, and possibly his agents, have failed him.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Arcadia:
By Roland195
17th Nov 2021 12:44

I agree. The chances are in this case we are talking about someone forced into S/E by circumstance rather than an active choice who appears to be already struggling financially - repayments offset against prior tax debts, extended period out of work.

The old system of penalties restricted to tax due produced much fairer results for these cases.

Thanks (0)