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HMRC admits to million letter backlog

Posted: June 5, 2015

Waiting for a tax refund? It could be a long wait. According to recent newspaper reports, HMRC is facing a backlog of almost a million letters.

Staff have been taken off call centre duties to work through the mail, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph, which also confirmed that individuals who had filed late tax returns, but subsequently had provided a “reasonable” excuse for being late, would be let off the £100 fine.

The development, which could affect nearly a million people, was confirmed by HMRC for whom a spokesperson said the government body wanted to focus more resources “on investigating major tax avoidance and evasion”.

The Telegraph report says the internal memo asks tax officials to remit fines without further investigation for those people who could show mitigating circumstances, and who appealed against the fine after their tax return was sent in.

The deadline for self-assessment returns was midnight on 31 January.

The Telegraph quotes the memo as saying: “Our penalty regime is intended to influence customer behaviour, but also be clear and cost-effective, fair and proportionate.

“The current way of managing penalties does not meet these objectives, and so we have decided to take a more proportionate approach where a customer has filed their return late, and then appealed against their penalty…

“This means that in the vast majority of cases we will be accepting the customer’s grounds for appeal, and we can cancel the penalty.”