Tax campaigners have broadly welcomed HMRC’s proposed reforms to late submissions penalties, but warned of potential confusion among taxpayers.
In new draft legislation ahead of Making Tax Digital, HMRC has put forward a “penalty point” model for self-assessment tax returns submitted after the deadline.
Penalty point model
Under the new plans, taxpayers would receive a point for every missed deadline, at a certain threshold dictated by the frequency of their submission obligations.
Annual submissions: 2 points
Quarterly submissions: 4 points
Monthly submissions: 5 points
After the threshold has been reached, HMRC will charge a penalty for each missed submission.
A period of good compliance will see penalty points erased by HMRC.
Annual submissions: 2 submissions
Quarterly submissions: 4 submissions
Monthly submissions: 6 submissions
Both penalty points and fines are appealable, giving taxpayers an opportunity to submit reasonable excuses for missed deadlines.
In response to HMRC’s proposals, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) claimed the model would be easy for taxpayers to understand.
Commenting on the way the points model had been developed, Joanne Walker, LITRG technical officer, welcomed the open approach adopted by HMRC.
“HMRC have consulted on many aspects of the penalty regime in recent years, particularly with a view to ensuring that it is fit for purpose for Making Tax Digital,” Walker said.
“This is welcome, as is the fact that a number of LITRG concerns have been taken on board.”
“We are pleased that a penalty point model has been adopted for late submission of returns, as in general, we think this should be easy for taxpayers to understand.”
However, Walker added that the introduction of a 15-day period in which a reduced penalty might apply could lead to confusion.
LITRG has subsequently proposed a “straightforward” 30-day period for payment, which, it claimed, would be both fairer and simpler to understand
She added: “There are aspects of the regime that may prove complex to administer and explain to taxpayers however, since there are three sets of rules for the application of points, which are largely determined by the frequency of tax returns required.
“The inclusion of key safeguards, such as a provision for HMRC to allow for familiarisation periods, provisions for the expiry of old points and reasonable excuse are essential for the protection of taxpayers.
“It is now essential that clear and comprehensible guidance is made available to taxpayers to ensure that they can adapt to and understand these new penalties.”
Experts expect HMRC’s penalty points model to commence from April 2020, 12 months ahead of the full introduction of Making Tax Digital.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.