Call for HMRC to relax self-assessment deadline

THE TAX SELF-ASSESSMENT DEADLINE should be pushed back to 3 February from 31 January – to give the thousands of people who are submitting self-assessment for the first time the chance to avoid a fine, ACCA has urged.

The warning from the institute comes as it emerged that some two million taxpayers are yet to file an assessment as the 31 January deadline looms.

Due to changes to child benefits and a rise in the last year of self-employed means  there will be a high number of first-time self-assessors struggling to meet the deadline in 2014, ACCA claimed.

Many families will be completing the self-assessment return for the first time because of changes to the child benefit system, which means any parent who earns between £50,000 and £60,000 can elect to continue to receive child benefit but they must complete a self-assessment form and will have to repay a proportion of the benefit they receive, by way of a tax charge, at the end of the tax year.

Failure to complete a self-assessment could result in having to repay part of or all of the benefit claimed by way of a tax charge on the highest earner of the couple, but also interest and penalties on the tax unpaid, even if it is an innocent mistake.

The body’s head of taxation Chas Roy-Chowdhury (pictured) claimed HM Revenue & Customs had a “common sense” decision to make.

“Either it can stick to the deadline and penalise all those families and self-employed people who are struggling to get to grips with the self-assessment process,” he said. “Or it can do the right thing and give them a lifeline by extending the deadline. Self-assessment is not easy and there are fines starting at £100 for missing the deadline even if you don’t owe any tax.

“The circumstances around this year’s deadline are different in that there will be a high number of people who will never have done self-assessment in their lives. They are going to miss the deadline not because they have been putting it off, but because they are newcomers. If reports are to be believed that two million have yet to meet the deadline just two days before it closes, then it is likely a lot of people will miss it.”

James Abbott, partner at UK200Group firm Abbott Moore, saidd: “I do have some sympathy for these first-time filers. I had an highly educated doctor in my office on Tuesday that needed to complete a tax return for the first time but struggled to get to grips with filing the form.

“However, there are plenty of lower-earning and less-aware individuals out there that struggle with the tax system but where HMRC take a really hard line against penalty appeals and late filing of tax returns, low earning self-employed individuals for example.

“I don’t feel that one group of individuals should receive special treatment regarding late filing unless the rules are more relaxed for all as that wouldn’t be fair. As to the absolute madness of means testing Child Benefit and necessitating these individuals to file these forms in the first place, well that’s a whole different ball game.”

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