Got an incorrect penalty from HMRC? You're not alone
Well, it’s a leap year and we all have an extra day- of work. However, owing to HMRC’s really sophisticated systems, there are quite a few people who will not be leaping for joy today.
According to official figures, 850,000 people received a £100 penalty notice for not submitting their 2011 Self Assessment tax return in time, even though the deadline was not extended* to 2 February owing to strike action. This figure was 39% lower than previous years, probably because this year was the first year that you couldn’t get your penalty reduced to nil if it turned out you didn’t actually owe the taxman any money.
What is unclear is whether those 850,000 penalties included the 17,000 people who have actually received angry notices in the post claiming that both returns and underpaid tax are late, when in fact, the return (and sometimes payment) were submitted in December.
In a Sun exclusive, investigative journalists with absolutely no underhand tactics discovered that a ‘glitch’ in HMRC’s computer systems means that anyone who correctly submitted online on 14, 15 and 16 December last year will be getting a red letter, rather than a proposal today.
An HMRC spokesman told the Sun: "We have cancelled the penalties and apologise to those affected. If these customers check online, they can see their payments have been correctly credited to their accounts." So that’s OK then.
As returns submitted in December would have needed to be online, rather than paper, most people affected should be able to check their online account to confirm the letter is a mistake. However, anyone unable to do so should call HMRC using the telephone number at the top of their penalty letter. Given the tax return deadline has now passed, we can only assume it won’t take 20 minutes for them to answer the phone- that’s if they don’t cut you off without ever answering, but we can’t be sure.
Today is also the last day for paying any outstanding tax due from your 31 January liability and avoid getting slapped with a 5% tax surcharge on any amounts unpaid 30 days after deadline. Anyone who has still not submitted their return by 30 April, when the return would be three months late, will then be subjected to a £10 per day penalty for up to 90 days. That’s total penalties of £1,000 if your return is not in by the end of July, when further surcharges will be levied. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
* Penalties were waived on returns submitted on 1 and 2 February. January 31 is still the official deadline, as otherwise it would confuse HMRC's systems too much in calculating 3 and 6 month penalties. And we clearly don't want to confuse HMRC any more than they are normally confused.