HMRC has been accused of being ‘out of step’ with other large commercial organisations over its ban on the use of credit cards by individuals to pay their tax bills, leaving some unable to pay and facing penalties
This decision taken two years ago gives rise to particularly acute problems at this time of the year, as self assessment taxpayers normally have to pay around half their tax bill for the year by 31 January, says UHY Hacker Young.
Next week, on March 1 taxpayers face a penalty of 5% on any tax unpaid from the 31 January deadline. If they are six months late they face a further 5% penalty.
The firm says the ban on the use of credit cards by individuals means that thousands of cash-strapped taxpayers receive penalties for late payment of their self assessment tax bills and have to arrange a payment plan with HMRC.
HMRC statistics show that last year, over 600,000 individual and business taxpayers fell behind on their tax payments and were forced to reschedule them with HMRC through ‘time to pay’ schemes.
UHY Hacker Young argues that while these arrangements offer an extended pay period to pay back their taxes, the schemes can be quite inflexible and many taxpayers have to spend time trying to negotiate favourable terms rather than just being allowed to use a credit card.
The firm points out that, as with other organisations HMRC is not allowed, by law, to charge a fee to consumers paying by credit card.
Rather than absorbing the small fees charged by credit card companies, HMRC instead decided to place a blanket ban on individuals using credit cards.
Clive Gawthorpe, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: ‘HMRC wants to be more customer focused so refusing to accept credit cards just seems remarkably unhelpful and anachronistic. The rule can lead to big financial penalties for taxpayers who are already struggling.
‘With so many other organisations like budget airlines now accepting credit cards without any charges it does make this policy from HMRC look out of step.’