IT’S NOT A SURPRISE TO ME that this extension of the tax return deadline is being presented as a generous gesture on the part of HMRC. However, I’m sure that this is a deliberately strategic move.
An extension neatly prevents the inevitable onslaught of letters the Revenue would have received as a result of asking taxpayers to claim in writing if they believed the strike on the 31st had prevented them from meeting the deadline.
This deluge of correspondence could have crippled HMRC’s already ailing administrative system and could have caused a new spate of errors to match some of the Revenue’s high-profile blunders of last year.
Secondly, the deadline extension itself means very little in real terms – the inefficiencies of the organisation’s system mean that it can take up to 7 days for the Revenue to supply a taxpayer with their unique reference number, which they need to complete their return.
So for anyone who has not yet approached HMRC for this information, an extension of two days will not enable them to submit on time – and crucially means that HMRC do not lose out on thousands of pounds of expected income from fines.
My final observation is that, in releasing this information about the extended deadline, HMRC are deflecting attention away from the fact that a huge section of their workforce are so dissatisfied with their current conditions that they have chosen the most high-profile day of the year to stage a strike.
This of course brings us back to the wider problems with employee dissatisfaction and systemic issues which pervade HMRC.
Mike Fleming, CTA, TEP, partner at Straughans Chartered Accountants and Tax Advisers
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