McGrigors law firm has recommended that all taxpayers should review their submitted tax returns as they have determined that the results of recent court cases clearly indicate that the HMRC are incorrectly fining ‘wrongdoers’ for what they perceive to be incorrect or late filings.

Although the HMRC has lost only a few cases in recent months, McGrigors believes this to be the “tip of the iceberg” since many who were fined have not appealed the decision or come forward to complain about the fine.

It is of course justifiable that the HMRC fines those who contravene the defined regulations, but should not penalise those with a ‘reasonable excuse’ for late filing, perhaps due to postal strikes or other related delays such as public holidays. However, the HMRC, of late, has been overly strict in the enforcement of their rules.

One of the partners at McGrigors, Jason Collins, said, “In a lot of these cases the courts have taken the completely opposite view to HMRC’s guidance. [It] should revise its guidance because at the moment taxpayers are being misled.” He also added that HMRC instruction should not be blindly accepted and that if people believe they have been unfairly treated during the process, they should immediately make an appeal.

Examples of overturned fines include one taxpayer who was late filing, despite proof of postage four days prior to the deadline. Another was unable to figure out the online filing process and was late with his paper return. The tribunal also excused cases where the taxpayer believed that the accountant would look after it and, perhaps most interestingly, cases where taxpayers relied exclusively on advice provided by the HMRC helpline.

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