Strike forces tax deadline day leniency

PA Wire

The tax office has conceded that strike action on tax deadline day will force them to treat taxpayers facing fines with 'leniency'.
A planned strike by some HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) staff on 31 January - the deadline for online tax returns - could leave insufficient numbers of staff to answer last-minute queries, forcing some people to submit their return after the deadline.
With approximately 2.7 million people still to file their self-assessment tax returns online by the deadline of 31 January, the strike could see HMRC waiving the late penalty fine.

If people find themselves unable to complete their forms by 31 January they face an immediate £100 fine - which would normally be imposed from the end of Tuesday, but may be waived since the strike means the department may be under-staffed on the day of the deadline.

"In all goodness and fairness, we won't be able to charge them," a spokesman for HMRC told the BBC.
The planned strikes at call centres and inquiry offices by the public sector union (PCS) are in protest of the appointment of private companies to run call-handling trials in tow contact centres.

On Tuesday over 182,000 forms were filed online, though 600,000 people are expected to put off submitting their forms until 31 January. From past statistics about 15 per cent of these - 90,000 - will ring for help, but might find it impossible to get an answer.
Of those choosing to send in tax returns on paper - which were required by 31 October - approximately 34,000 were filed after the deadline passed.
The new system of fines for filing a tax return late is much tougher this year, with HMRC charging an immediate £100 fine, even if no tax is owed. Penalties increase to £1,300 if a tax payer neglects to send in a form after six months, rising to £1,600 after a year.

HMRC has reassured taxpayers that no one will be disadvantaged as a result of the industrial action, but those affected will still have to lodge an appeal.
Taxpayers with a 'reasonable excuse' will be able to write to their tax office quoting their unique taxpayer reference to lodge an appeal, and should not wait for a penalty notice.

HMRC's examples of 'reasonable excuses' that would normally be accepted include loss of documents through theft, fire or flood and the onset of a life-threatening illness. However, a strike at the tax office has now been added to the list.
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