HMRC is delaying the process of sending out late penalty fine notices to people who were tardy with their self-assessment tax returns this year in order to focus instead on dealing with issues relating to Brexit.
Almost 750,000 people are believed to have missed the January 31st online tax return deadline and should therefore expect to receive an automatic £100 fine.
However, while HMRC staff would usually go through the process of issuing notices to everyone who filed their returns late over the course of February, this year those efforts will be delayed until late April.
A notice on the matter from HMRC said: “We expect an increased demand in our call centres as the UK leaves the EU, so we intend to delay the issue of these notices to ensure we can provide the best service to our customers.
“This will release those staff for EU exit related work. We will issue daily penalties to individuals who have still not filed three months after the deadline, in appropriate cases, at the normal time.”
A potential consequence of the delay is that the amounts being charged might soon increase sharply without recipients of the fines being aware of their own liabilities.
The reason for this is that additional fines are handed out to anyone who leaves their £100 penalty fine for late filing unpaid for more than three months.
Those additional fines accrue at a rate of £10 per day from three months after the initial self-assessment filing deadline, which will mean from the end of April onwards.
As a result, there are concerns that by early May many thousands of people could find themselves racking up sizable extra fines because they haven’t received notices from HMRC informing them that they filed their tax returns late.
“We are concerned that the delay in issuing penalty notices may give taxpayers who haven’t filed their 2017/18 tax returns a misplaced confidence that they will either avoid any penalty or, at worst, incur only the fixed £100 penalty,” explained Jon Stride, from the Association of Tax Technicians.
“In fact, if the £100 penalty notice is issued by HMRC at the end of April 2019, a taxpayer may (by the time the notice hits their doormat) already be incurring additional penalties at the rate of £10 for each day starting from 1 May 2019,” Mr Stride said in a statement responding to HMRC’s announcements.