Revenue gets tough on late returns

The Inland Revenue has told the English ICA to get tough on a repeat of last year. accountants whose clients continue to miss self assessment deadlines.

As the next penalty deadline for 1996/1997 tax forms looms – 31 July – Doug Smith, Revenue director of business operations, said the department would liaise closely with the institute to iron out simple mistakes.

He said: ‘We have kept an open dialogue with the accountancy profession and are determined to take the process through to years two and three.’

Smith said the Revenue would follow on from the 5,000 workshops attended by 60,000 agents which was ‘one of the main pluses so far’.

Although the number of latepayers likely to miss the final Year One deadline is unclear, recent estimates have put it at around 400,000 – each liable to face another automatic #100 fine plus interest.

Peter Bickley, secretary of the institute’s tax faculty, predicted more than 800,000 taxpayers would again fail to meet the January deadline.

He urged taxpayers to get their forms in by September, when the Revenue will work out any tax liability.

The Revenue said the two most popular reasons quoted by late payers for not filling in the form were ‘not having had time’ and ‘not having all the necessary information to hand’.

A Revenue spokeswoman said: ‘We will look more closely at people who have made simple errors or oversights in Year Two if they made the same ones in Year One.’

Smith said the Revenue would be raising a ‘sceptical eyebrow’ at those producing similar excuses this year for their non-returns. The Revenue has also announced a communications pack for agents advising them on how to best help their clients return SA forms.

Smith said that the main cause of delay following the introduction of self-assessment was suffered by accountants trying to install the right IT systems before the January deadline.

Julie Anderson, deputy director of business operations, said there were a number of extras arising from the first year. She said that although 1.3 million penalty cases for late returns were forecast, only 775,000 were late, with just 168,000 appeals.

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