HMRC refunds £1.8m to families after cancelling penalty charges

The taxman has issued £1.8 million in refunds after reviewing cases where families were hit with penalties for failing to register for a charge relating to their child benefits.

Thousands of penalties have been cancelled, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said.

The about-turn happened as HMRC said it had listened to customers and others and “changed its view” of when some people may have had a reasonable excuse for failing to register for the high income child benefit charge (HICBC).

The charge, which was introduced from 2013, claws back money from higher income households receiving child benefits.

It applies to people who have an individual income over £50,000 and either they or their partner receives child benefit.

The cases looked at by HMRC included those where families were claiming for child benefit before the charge was first introduced and one partner’s income subsequently increased over the £50,000 threshold.

Some refunds have also been sent to families where the liability to HICBC arose as a result of a new relationship being formed.

Those affected by the tax charge can choose not to receive child benefit payments, but by filling in the child benefit claim form families can make sure they still receive national insurance credits which will count towards their state pensions.

People who are affected can also opt to carry on getting child benefit – but this means paying charges at the end of each tax year.

HMRC reviewed 35,000 cases where a “failure to notify” penalty had been charged.

It cancelled the penalties of over 6,000 customers who had a reasonable excuse for not notifying it about their liability for the tax years 2013 to 2014, 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016.

Refunds were made in 4,885 cases and totalled £1.8 million, HMRC said.

All customers entitled to a refund will now have received one and do not need to contact HMRC, which said it is also improving the way it communicates to people about child benefit.

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