DON’T BURY YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND AND STAY SAFE THIS CHRISTMAS

As I am sure most people are aware, 31 January 2017 is the online filing deadline in respect of Tax Returns for the year ended 5 April 2016. As we head toward the festive season, you may want to use any time off that you have to get your tax affairs in order. After all, there’s nothing that says Christmas quite like sorting through all your tax records whilst recovering from too much turkey and Christmas pudding!!!

The penalties for not dealing with your affairs on a timely basis can be significant though and can quickly turn into a serious issue the longer that matters are left; and unlike Father Christmas once he’s delivered all the presents, they certainly won’t disappear!

If H M Revenue and Customs (HMRC) sent you a notice to complete a Tax Return shortly after 5 April 2016 and you don’t file the Return before 31 January 2017, there will be an automatic penalty of £100 that you will have to pay even if there is no tax payable or if you have already paid all of the tax that you think you might owe.

But that is only the start. As well as the automatic £100 late-filing penalty, if the tax liability due on 31 January 2017 is not fully paid by that date, HMRC will charge interest (and such interest will also be levied on any payment on account toward your 2016/17 tax liability if that applies to you). That interest will be charged at 2.75% per annum and it is worth noting that any tax in respect of the year ended 5 April 2016 which remains unpaid at 28 February 2017 will incur a further 5% surcharge penalty.

Furthermore, if your Tax Return is due to be submitted by 31 January 2017 and is still not submitted by 30 April 2017 then even more significant penalties are levied at the rate of £10 per day (up to a maximum of £900).

There are further penalties levied if the Return is more than 6 months late (£300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher, in addition to the penalties mentioned above) and if the Return is more than 12 months late (an additional £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher, and in serious cases can be as much as 100% of the tax due).

To put it in perspective, if your Tax Return is submitted more than 12 months late then, EVEN IF THERE IS NO TAX DUE, you can be fined up to £1,600. This figure can be much higher if there is significant tax due.

Because of the potentially significant penalties referred to above, it is much better to try to file your Tax Return well in advance of the 31 January deadline. If you haven’t done so nothing will be gained by burying your head in the sand - the problem won’t go away. If you would like any assistance with bringing your tax affairs up to date or if there is anything else you would like to discuss then please contact us.

As many people are filing their Tax Returns around this time of year, fraudsters can try to take advantage of this by attempting to contact taxpayers asking them to disclose personal information about their tax affairs or bank details etc.

This has been an issue for a number of years and remains so. One of the most common such scams in the past few years takes the form of a bogus email purporting to have been sent from HMRC informing taxpayers that they are entitled to a tax repayment. The emails often ask taxpayers to then click on a link in the email or to provide their bank details so that the repayment can be made.

It is not uncommon for taxpayers to be entitled to tax refunds at this time of year if, for example, they have recently filed their Tax Return which indicates they have overpaid tax in respect of the year ended 5 April 2016. However, HMRC will never contact taxpayers by email about such refunds so be very cautious about any email correspondence you receive which appears to have been sent by HMRC. If you are unsure about the content of any emails then it is safer to not click on any links in the email, open any attachments or reply with any confidential information.

Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to issue communications to unsuspecting taxpayers and in more recent years, these have taken the form of text messages as well. HMRC will never notify you about a repayment via text message so always be on your guard.

A worrying new development are phone calls purporting to be from HMRC. One scam we’ve heard about recently is an automated message that starts: “This is Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. We have been trying to reach you to let you know that we are filing a law suit against you.” The message is then said to provide a list of options, such as “To speak to your case officer press one.” This happened to one of our clients recently and I’m pleased to report that instead of pressing one, she phoned us instead. We could reassure her that her tax affairs were in order, there was no such lawsuit and the call was a scam.

If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from HMRC and asking for bank or other personal details, then it is most likely to be a fraudster. You may wish to attempt to verify the caller’s ID but if you are in any doubt whatsoever then you should hang up.

HMRC ask that taxpayers who receive any suspicious emails forward them to HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk or send any suspicious text messages to 60599. There is further information available online at www.gov.uk/report-suspicious-emails-websites-phishing.

The above is for general guidance only and no action should be taken without obtaining specific advice.

Please stay safe and may we take this opportunity to wish you all an enjoyable festive season.