HMRC offers ‘second chance’ for outstanding tax returns

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HMRC has launched a new campaign aimed at taxpayers who have failed to submit their self assessment tax returns for previous years. The campaign gives these taxpayers a time frame in which they are able to submit their outstanding tax returns, which could reduce the charges they incur. A similar campaign last year targeted higher rate taxpayers who had failed to submit a return for 2008/09 or 2009/10. Following this, over 3,000 people came forward voluntarily to file more than 5,500 tax returns, generating in excess of £30 million.

Under the latest scheme, taxpayers who received a self assessment tax return or a notice to complete a return for any year up to 2011/12, but who failed to take action, must notify HMRC that they wish to take part in the campaign, before submitting the return. They can do this by completing a form online, posting it, or contacting HMRC by telephone. They will then have until 15 October 2013 to complete and submit their returns and pay any outstanding tax.

Individuals who fail to meet this deadline will be liable to penalties of up to 100% of the tax due, and could face criminal investigation. However those who are proactive and come forward to pay their outstanding returns will receive the best terms that HMRC can offer in relation to penalties. HMRC expects that most people will not have to pay 100% of the penalty fees. Interest will remain payable for late payments of tax on all self assessment tax returns. The tax authority will be writing directly to several thousand people it has identified using intelligence-gathering software, with follow-up calls expected to be made to many individuals in due course. Marian Wilson, head of campaigns at HMRC, said:

‘This is definitely the best time to catch up, on the best possible terms. While some penalties will apply, it is likely to cost people more if we have to find them rather than them coming to us’.

The campaign is the latest in a string of HMRC schemes designed to recoup unpaid tax. Previous initiatives have resulted in payments of more than £547m from voluntary disclosures, and nearly £140m as a result of follow-up activity.