Strike action set to disrupt tax deadline day

THE TAXMAN said it will not give taxpayers more time to file their self-assessment tax returns online despite planned industrial action by some tax staff on the 31 January deadline.

A deadline extension will not be provided even if HMRC staff strike on the final day for self-assessment filing.

However, taxpayers unable to get last minute queries about their tax returns answered due to a shortage of call-centre staff and who don’t file their return on the deadline day may be able to avoid a £100 penalty by claiming a “reasonable excuse” – a long-established concession to taxpayers – HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said.

Last year, around 600,000 people tried to file their self-assessment tax returns on 31 January, of which around 15%, or 90,000, tried to phone HMRC call centres.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which has around 60,000 members in HMRC, has planned a one-day strike on 31 January to protest against the appointment of private-sector companies to run call-handling trials in two contact centres.

“[HMRC] Contact centre staff face the undermining of their terms and conditions by private sector employers looking to line their own pockets at the expense of the public sector,” the PCS said in a statement earlier in January.

An HMRC spokesman said it would make sure that no one was disadvantaged as a result of the industrial action and was working with unions to minimise disruption to public services.

He added: “HMRC is not privatising existing HMRC contact centre jobs, but we are determined to improve the service we provide to our customers. This means considering a variety of options, including drawing on the knowledge and experience of external contact centre operators.”

Industrial action was “unwarranted and unnecessary,” he said.

HMRC is introducing a much tougher system of fines this year. A £100 penalty for a tax return that is one day late will apply whether or not there is tax owed.

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