Who said HMRC doesn’t have a sense of humour…
Once again Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has issued a list of excuses given by individuals who were late submitting their tax returns. Top of the list last year – “My pet goldfish died” (self-employed builder)[i] has been toppled this year by the (almost tongue-in-cheek) “My pet dog ate my tax return… and all the reminders”[ii].
Most employees with simple tax affairs no longer have to submit a return but the self-employed – sole traders and partners – have to. So too do individuals with more complex tax situations – significant investment income, property rentals, foreign earnings, etc. Company directors invariably will be sent a personal tax return to complete too, so there are plenty of people affected. Rather strangely ministers of religion are also required to submit a return. Last year The Guardian quoted that over 10 million tax returns are submitted annually[iii].
There are no prizes for the best excuse – just a £100 fine initially with additional penalties if it is left longer and HMRC doesn’t always see the funny side. From a personal point of view if I fell into one of the occupation categories which HMRC is targeting for tax evasion, such as solicitors, restaurateurs, plumbers, electricians and scrap-metal dealers, I would not want to draw unnecessary attention to myself by not submitting my return on time. A tax investigation – even if it reveals nothing amiss – can be time-consuming, disruptive and stressful.
Late tax returns may be the result of simple forgetfulness (despite reminders) but in some cases it stems from an awareness that there are arrears which perhaps cannot be paid. In these situations it is always best for an individual to complete a tax return.
If you are self-employed and haven’t completed your tax return yet, you need to do so before 31st January. If the reason you are hesitating is because you are concerned that you cannot afford to pay what is due, contact Wilson Field. Financial difficulties don’t have to result in bankruptcy. We can negotiate with HMRC on your behalf and arrange to pay off arrears over a period. If for any reason HMRC is reluctant to enter such an arrangement then an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) could be suitable, enabling you to continue trading and without financial pressure.
Rather than avoid completing your tax return and then offer HMRC an excuse like “my girlfriend’s pregnant” or “I was in Australia”, for a better outcome contact Wilson Field without delay.
References and further reading