Self Assessment filing – what’s your experience so far this year?
Charlotte Barbour reports on a brief survey of ICAS tax committees requesting feedback to take to HMRC to help inform discussions about work pressures and whether relaxations or penalty deferrals for Self Assessment tax return filing should be considered.
ICAS committee members were asked to give feedback on their current workload and experience regarding Self Assessment (SA) filing pressures, with a view to whether ICAS should be asking HMRC for any relaxations or assistance between now and the end of January 2022.
A broad summary of replies received to date indicates that most firms are in about the same position as they were last year or marginally behind. Given last year’s position (in comparison to normal years) and the current outlook predicted for the Omicron variant into January, there is some cause for concern about the pressures of meeting the filing deadline at the end of January.
Requests from Committee Members
- There were mixed feelings about requesting a relaxation so that there will be no late filing penalties for returns filed by 28 February; approximately one third of respondents would welcome a penalty delay.
- If a delay is to be given it would be much more helpful to have the announcement as soon as possible, i.e., not simply a week before 31 January.
- It would be helpful to have the opening hours of HMRC phone lines extended in January.
- As much as anything else, Members hope that HMRC will extend a sympathetic approach to work pressures and what might constitute a ‘reasonable excuse’ for late filing.
The following comments give a sense of what member firms are experiencing.
- We are about the same but fear it could get worse with rising COVID numbers, isolations and working from home for the foreseeable.
- This time it has appeared rapidly and from a more ‘normal’ place. The shift to any form of lockdown whilst it may be familiar now, it is also jaded and perhaps more unexpected this time this year.
- The year has never returned fully to normal, which has resulted in a constant catch up and ever moving goal posts for many, especially the hospitality sector.
- ….the additional support that clients have required/expected (i.e. ever-changing advice on CJRS, grants, closures etc), has definitely had an impact over the year which could explain the backlog in the SA returns this late in the year.
- There is also a concern given the new WFH restrictions and isolating rules that the usual January rush (which is unfortunately inevitable with certain clients even without COVID impacts!) may become an issue depending on the number of staff affected.
- Our team has seen a continued higher than normal workload over the last 9 months, with job retention scheme and other COVID advice and support being given to clients, over and above our normal services. All of my small team have school aged children, some young, which has put extra strain on us working from home when lockdowns were in place.
- We are finding that the continued lockdown and home working is having an effect on some staff, particularly recently – and also a few clients where it has affected them. I think it would be much appreciated if there was a similar softening of the stance again this year, to provide a safety net.
- Any potential extension to the 31 January filing deadline would be an enormous boost. If HMRC are considering it, they must make the call much sooner as it was just too late last year.
- I would strongly support penalty reductions and deadline extensions, plus increase helpline hours.
- The feeling is that penalty deferral simply promotes client intransigence to some extent and prolongs the January agony!
ICAS tax staff meet regularly with HMRC, in a number of forums, and the above feedback has been shared with HMRC at the Representative Body Steering Group meeting in December.
The Representative Body Steering Group
The Representative Body Steering Group (RBSG) is the top level liaison forum, hosted by HMRC that engages with professional bodies, intermediaries, software developers and senior HMRC managers. It helps advise on strategic decisions about HMRC’s performance, including customer service, its digital strategy, and the impact of these on agents.
Let us know your views
ICAS responds to many tax calls for evidence and consultations, as well as producing tax policy papers and reports. We also regularly attend meetings with HMRC at which service levels, delays and other administrative issues are discussed, and we raise problems being encountered by Members. We welcome Members’ input to inform our work – please email email@example.com to share your insights and feedback.