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Fines amnesty for late tax returns

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According to The Daily Telegraph (29 May), tax officials no longer check why someone was unable to submit self-assessment forms if they provide a ‘reasonable’ excuse. An internal memo, leaked to the newspaper, asked HMRC staff to write off the £100 charge without further investigation if people with seemingly mitigating circumstances appealed after paying their tax bill.

The memo read: ‘Our penalty regime is intended to influence customer behaviour, but also be clear and cost effective, fair and proportionate. The current way of managing penalties does not meet these objectives, and so we have decided to take a more proportionate approach where a customer has filed their return late, and then appealed against their penalty ... This means that in the vast majority of cases we will be accepting the customer's grounds for appeal, and we can cancel the penalty.’

HMRC recently consulted on the way that penalties are applied as the department looks to deliver more digital services, and is analysing the comments received.