HMRC urged to be lenient on returns delayed by the postal strike

Taxpayers whose paper returns are held up in the mail by the postal strike should not have to face a late filing fine.

The call to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) not to issue fines to those taxpayers who miss the 31 October deadline because of industrial action by Royal Mail workers came from the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) and the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT).

Both organisations have written to Dave Hartnett, HMRC’s chief of tax, asking him to consider treating all paper returns received within a week of the deadline as if they were received on time.

This would mean not imposing any late filing charges of £100.

Andrew Hubbard, president of the CIOT, commented: “HMRC have said that anyone whose tax return misses the deadline due to the strike should not have to pay the hundred pound fine as they can appeal and have the penalty cancelled. That is welcome.”

But Mr Hubbard added that, given the chaos likely to hit the postal service during the strike period, “it would be much more sensible, and less bureaucratic all round, simply to treat all returns which arrive up to a week late as having arrived on time.”

David Stedman, president of the ATT, offered the following advice: “The regional postal strikes earlier this year led to some letters being delayed by weeks.

“I would strongly encourage anyone yet to send in their tax return to either deliver it by hand to a local tax office – and keep a note of when they delivered it – or to obtain a ‘proof of posting’ certificate from their local post office when they post it. This will enable people to prove to HMRC that they posted in good time even if the return arrives late and they need to appeal.”