The Fixer: I can't pay my tax fines

Jess Bown

Have you been left out of pocket due to poor service or sharp practice? Do you have a money problem that won't go away?

It can seem impossible to get a fair result when you are battling a financial issue alone. But never fear! The AOL Money Fixer is here to help.

I have been a self employed electrician since 1984 and have never had any tax problems in the past.

However, I changed accountants a couple of years ago and my new accountant has badly let me down. I dropped all my files, bank statements and invoices to his office in January 2013 about 2 days before they had to be submitted.

He told me at the time that two days would not be long enough and I would receive a fine from the HMRC as a result, but that he would file my accounts within a couple of weeks.

I accepted this as it was my fault he only got the paperwork two days before the deadline, and when the fines for filing the accounts late - a total of £400 for me, my wife and the business - arrived I paid them and thought no more about it, until I started to receive letters from HMRC a few months later saying I would be fined again if I did not submit my accounts.

I called my accountant and pointed out he had received my files two to three months ago. He apologised and said he would get them submitted within the week.

However, I kept receiving letters and by June I owed fines totalling £4,800 - despite my account repeatedly telling me he was sorting it out.

I contacted the accountant, who admitted he had let things slide due to his divorce, and said I wanted to pick up my files.

He refused to hand them over unless I paid his fee, which I did, before hiring another accountant who has now submitted my accounts.

But I'm struggling to pay the fines which are still accruing interest on a daily basis. Can you help?

D Bradnum, Hertfordshire

Dear Mr Bradnum,

I have spoken to HMRC about your case. Unfortunately, it is not prepared to let you off any of the fines at this stage, particularly as the 30-day appeal period has passed.

It said: "There are occasions when a reasonable excuse could be accepted which in effect would cancel the penalties but within these provisions we also say that 'reliance on any other person to do anything is not a reasonable excuse unless the taxpayer took reasonable care to avoid the failure'."

However, you could still lodge an "out of time" appeal with your current accountant, focusing on the care you took to get your accounts submitted as soon as possible and your previous good compliance history with HMRC.

First, though, you should call HMRC Business Payment Support Services on 0300 200 3835 to discuss options for spreading the payment of your fines.

It may also be worth taking legal action against your old accountant to try to recoup at least some of your costs.

But your first priority should be to contact HMRC to discuss your fines and how you can stop them mounting up further.

The Fixer

Whatever your financial problem, write to and The AOL Money Fixer will get on the case.

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