ACCA has added its voice to calls for HMRC to extend the deadline for self-assessment tax returns on January 31, with the professional body warning that failure to do so could land millions of hard-hit entrepreneurs with fines totalling £250m
ACCA has lobbied HMRC for a rethink on behalf of its members and the businesses they support.
However, so far HMRC has indicated that the £100 fines for late filing will be issued and then the ordinary appeals process followed, although it will regard Covid factors as a ‘reasonable excuse’ for delays.
In a letter to HMRC Glenn Collins, ACCA head of technical advisory and policy stated: ‘Given the fact that we now have a further national lockdown, the results from our latest survey post the lockdown announcement, the increased need for individuals to isolate, and the worsening response times to queries raised with HMRC, we would urge HMRC to reconsider and extend the deadline until the end of the tax year in order to provide relief for struggling businesses.’
ACCA said its members have highlighted several areas where the pandemic has intensified familiar filing deadline difficulties, as well as introducing new ones.
Richard Halsey, of Halsey and Co in Cheam, Surrey, said: ‘We now have to spend on average three days trying to reach HMRC on webchat just to make contact as our letters and calls go unanswered.
‘That is one of the main reasons we are behind in filing – my staff are simply having to spend disproportionate amounts of time dealing with HMRC issues and assisting with the various government Covid schemes.’
Other firms have experienced difficulties because the requirement for members of staff to deal with childcare as a consequence of schools being closed, meaning fewer resources available for January than planned.
ACCA points out that the current ramping up of pressures comes at the end of what has been an unprecedented year for accountants, as they have had to support clients with a wide range of entirely new measures, including the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS), self employed income support scheme (SEISS) and local restrictions support grant (LRSG), as well as advise those who have received no government support and try to manage the impact of the pandemic on their own staff and businesses.
The letter from ACCA also shared the results of a survey of accountants representing 14,000 clients, which discovered that 22.2% of clients were expected to miss the filing deadline. Extrapolated across the 11.7m self-employed individuals required to file in 2020 this could mean around 2.5m entrepreneurs facing penalties.