Taxman's big payday from new fines
Filed under: Tax
So how is the taxman taking so much, and how can you stay on the right side of the rules?
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The finesThe fines are a result of the fact that as of Tuesday, 650,000 people had still failed to file their tax return from last year. These were due in by 31 January 2012 at the latest (although this year it was extended to 2 February because of the strike).
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New rules have now been introduced that mean that in addition to the old £100 fine for missing the initial deadline, there is now another deadline on 1 May. Anyone who hasn't paid up by that point is fined £10 a day until the total fines reach £900, or the return is filed (whichever is sooner).
And it gets worse. Those people who still haven't paid up and submitted their paperwork by the end of June will be fined either £300 or 5% of any money they owe HMRC. And if they get to the end of December without paying up, they'll be fined £300 or 5% again. It means that the total fines could hit £1,500 or more (in addition to all the tax you owe) if you fail to submit by the end of the year.
What can you do?Stephen Banyard of HMRC says: "We want the returns, not the penalties. So anyone who still has not sent theirs should do so as soon as possible." Regardless of your view of whether these fines constitute a handy extra £6.5 million a day for HMRC or a real inconvenience, the advice is sound. It's vital to get on top of your return immediately.
This is roughly the time that people tend to cast around for a good excuse that will get them out of the fine. HMRC will waive the fine if you have a good reason and contact them to let them know, but beware, because you'll need to have something fairly spectacular up your sleeve. They'll consider a life-threatening illness, the death of a partner, a fire or flood that meant the loss of documents, or a mistake on their behalf which meant you didn't have everything you needed to file.
However, they won't be swayed by anything else - no matter how convincing you sound, so there's no point telling them that you don't have the money, you asked someone else to do it and they failed or you didn't get a reminder. Rather than dreaming up excuses, therefore, the answer is to do your return as soon as humanly possible.
If you filed in timeFor those sitting pretty with their accounts filed in time, this serves as a useful reminder that they need to start thinking about the next set of accounts. The deadline may be months away, but there's nothing stopping you knuckling down now and getting started. During the process its easy to discover you don't have a vital document, or you have lost your HMRC code. Starting now means you can get hold of everything you need over the course of the next month, and still file before you relax into the summer.
It may seem very early to get started, but when you're looking forward to Christmas and New Year without a tax thought in your head you'll be thanking your lucky stars you were so organised.