Third record-breaking year in row for Christmas self-assessments

THE NUMBER of self-assessments submitted online to HM Revenue & Customs on Christmas Day hit 1,773 a 13% increase on last year’s total of 1,566.

HMRC’s Christmas data logs reveal the busiest time for online returns on 25 December was between midday and 1pm, when 148 Yuletide filings were delivered electronically.

Christmas Eve, traditionally a much busier day for festive filing than the big day itself, saw 17,644 online returns successfully submitted. This was up 4% on the 17,000 received on 24 December 2013.

Another 4,811 online returns ticked all the boxes on Boxing Day – a 7% increase on the 4,493 received last year.

In total, 24,228 online returns were received over the three-day festive period – up 5% on the 2013 total of 23,059.

Around 11.2 million people are expected to fill out a tax return for the 2013/14 tax year. So far, around six million submissions have been received.

However, ICAEW tax faculty technical manager Anita Monteith expressed concerns over HMRC’s capacity to deal with demand, warning “the cracks are showing”.

“HMRC funding cannot go any lower without having a major effect on service standards. Recent mistakes have highlighted just how fragile HMRC services are and we believe these should be urgently strengthened,” she said. 

“With the self-assessment deadline approaching, cracks are starting to show. Pointing the public towards the new HMRC chat service for advice, or social media, will see those who don’t use sites such as Twitter being left behind. HMRC currently lacks the resource to manage an increase in call volumes, which will cause waiting times for those people to skyrocket at this busy time.”

Responding to those concerns, HMRC said in a statement itis “continuing to reduce in size” and working to become “more highly-skilled and to operate from fewer locations”.

“We are working hard to improve our handling of customer calls and are moving up to 1,500 extra people on to the phones during January as the Self-Assessment deadline approaches. HMRC receives around 70 million calls a year and we know that some of our customers can struggle to get through on our helplines at very busy times,” it added.

The deadline for sending 2013/14 tax returns to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2015.

All outstanding 2013/14 tax returns must now be submitted online, as the 31 October paper-filing deadline has passed. To send an online tax return, you must be registered for HMRC Online Services.

That involves HMRC sending you an Activation Code in the post, and you need to allow 10 days for it to arrive.

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