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There’s no excuse for late filing of tax returns, or is there?

There’s no excuse for late filing of tax returns, or is there?

Today really is the last day that you can file their self-assessment returns without receiving a late filing penalty from HMRC.

Normally, returns should be filed by midnight on January 31st, but this year the Revenue extended the deadline to February 2nd because members of the Public and Commercial Services Union were taking industrial action on the 31st and members of the public would struggle to get through to HMRC call centres.

The Union hailed the strike as a success, saying 14,500 members of staff did not report for work. Volunteers staffed revenue enquiry centres and there were huge backlogs at call centres.

At first glance it seems a sensible move for HMRC to extend the filing deadline. It gave a bit of extra time to the estimated 90,000 individuals who were expected to phone asking for help with their tax returns on Tuesday. And these people would have swamped the Revenue will letters of complaint if they had been unable to do and as a result, received an automatic fine.

However, the extension will not help those people who had not already applied for the unique reference number they needed to enable them to complete their return online. This is sent out by mail and can take up to 7 days from date of application to arrive.

HMRC has been having major problems with their admin system over recent months. It takes weeks, sometimes months for people to get a written response to their queries, so a further deluge of mail would have swamped an already hard-pressed department.

The extension will probably will be seen as a compromise that should suit everybody. The extension has been widely publicised so there is really no excuse for filing late. Taxpayers have been given an extra couple of days to file, but the Revenue will no doubt still rake in the fines from people who had not received their URN and those who purposely ignore their filing requirements.

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Image: Steve by Steve Snodgrass

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