Pay late and avoid the pain?

Paying taxes is a civic duty that is impressed upon all of us personally and commercially on those running businesses. So what happens if you are late paying a tax because of something you feel is out of your control, maybe a delay due to the actions of a professional advisor, and penalty is levied

Paying taxes is a civic duty that is impressed upon all of us personally and commercially on those running businesses. So what happens if you are late paying a tax because of something you feel is out of your control, maybe a delay due to the actions of a professional advisor, and penalty is levied - can the penalty be waived?

Well unless you have access to a taxman with a kind heart you'll need to find a 'reasonable excuse'. A recent case - Browne v HMRC - offers some guidance on what you may be able to get away with.

In this case, there was a failure to deliver a stamp duty return to HMRC, a failure due to the actions of the solicitor handling the conveyancing of a land transaction on behalf of the taxpayer, Mrs Browne. Precisely because the case revolved around conveyancing, which needed the help of a solicitor, it was reasonable for Mrs Browne to expect the solicitor to send the return into HMRC. It was part of their job in undertaking the transaction. The failure was not a fault of Mrs Browne and so the penalty was reversed.

It's worth noting that this situation - failure due to the actions of a professional advisor - is specifically excluded from the range of reasonable excuses that relate to VAT.

The solution is to (a) make sure that you are aware of your obligations and (b), if using a third party, grill them on any tax obligations and ensure that they are complied with.

As a parting note, this blog is taking a break and will be back on the 4th of January. Happy Christmas to all.
This was first published in December 2010

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