Higher rate taxpayers urged to settle tax returns

Higher rate taxpayers are being given the opportunity to come forward and submit any outstanding tax returns with HMRC as it launches a new time-limited campaign.

This time around, HMRC is specifically targeting those who pay higher tax rates of 40 per cent and above who have failed to submit self-assessment tax returns for 2009-10 or earlier - although HMRC added the campaign is open to anyone who has yet to submit their return for these years.

Individuals wanting to come forward will have until the 2 October 2012 to tell HMRC they want to take part, submit returns and pay any outstanding tax and national insurance contributions. Those who voluntarily come forward may receive better terms and lower penalties.

After the 2 October those who have still failed to submit their returns may face penalties of up to 100 per cent of the tax due, interest and surcharges on the amount owed, a fixed penalty for the late submission of their return, and face the possibility of a criminal investigation.

Self-assessment tax returns for the 2009-10 tax year should have been submitted, and any tax paid, by January 2011.

Gary Ashford, from the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) commented that many people would be surprised by HMRC's decision to launch a campaign on self-assessment returns which are now more than 17 months late.

"This is not just about evaders," he said.

"Some will have calculated that they are paying roughly the right amount of tax and thought they didn't need to complete a return. Others may be happy to pay HMRC's estimated determination of their tax liability. Many will simply be lost in the system. Whatever the position, this is a group that needs attention and, in many cases, help: they are at risk of penalties."

HMRC said the campaign forms part of a wider initiative to provide support and guidance to the public on their tax obligations. Its campaigns have yielded nearly £510 million to date from voluntary disclosures, with over £120 million of this coming from non-compliance follow ups from around 180,000 investigations.

Previous campaigns have targeted offshore investments, medical professionals, private tutors, plumbers, electricians and online traders.

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