Obsborne's tax penalties to net £70m

George Osborne laughingPA

There's one thing George Osborne could slap a tax on that would make him a small fortune for no effort, and he could roundly and rightly blame it on taxpayers themselves: a tax on disorganisation.

This is effectively what he has done by bringing in a raft of new penalties for filing tax returns late, and they are set to make him around £70 million.

Fines

The first of these fines will kick in as soon as the return is a single day late, at which point Osborne will get £100. There's nothing new about this. However, in the past, those who were later found not to owe any tax at all - or to have paid it all through the PAYE system - would have the fee waived.

New rules mean everyone will have to pay.

Rising fines

Every year, the fines bring in more cash. For the last tax year there were £20.8 million in fines. The year earlier it was £19.1 million. But for this year the fines are likely to reach £90 million.

This is boosted by the fact there will be an escalating level of fines depending on just how late your tax return is. Previously for the first six months you just owed £100. After that there would be another £100 added to the fine.

Now, after three months there will be another £10 every day that the return is not filed - up to a maximum of £900. Once you reach this stage you then face another raft of charges - until there's every chance that you owe more in fines than you do in tax.

Denial

HMRC has emphasised that it would much rather have the tax paid than issue fines. They have also been keen to point out that this was planned long before revenue-raising became such a hot topic.

However, I'm not so sure they should be so coy. We only pay these fines if we make a mistake: if we're late for a deadline we knew about long in advance. There is a very easy way to avoid paying these fines: find three hours to do your tax return sometime between May and December. It doesn't sound so hard when you put it like that, does it?

We have no-one to blame but ourselves if we end up being fined, so why shouldn't Osborne cash in?

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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