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Self Assessment process is overtaxing, says group

Self Assessment process is overtaxing, says group

Category: Money

Updated: 02/02/2010
First Published: 02/02/2010

MONEYFACTS ARCHIVE
This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Inexperienced consumers attempting to file their online Self Assessment return last weekend were not given sufficient help and may have been unfairly penalised, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) has claimed.

Over 6.4 million people are thought to have filed their 2008-09 tax return online this year, a 12 per cent increase on 2007-08.

A heavy advertising campaign highlighting Sunday's deadline by HM Revenues & Customs (HMRC) has encouraged consumers to file their tax return online.

However, research by the LITRG has found that some people may have found themselves unable to complete their returns; some of whom may find themselves unfairly penalised.

The group found that somebody needing help with a simple tax question in the morning or afternoon of Saturday 30 January would have to wait an average of 14 minutes to speak with an adviser, 'far too long, especially for someone calling on a mobile phone,' said the LITRG.

Calling later in the day produced a worse result, with an automated voice advising that lines were very busy and the caller should ring back later.

The online forms were found to be full of jargon for inexperienced users, with others 'baffling for even experienced users.'

As a result of the failings, the LITRG has called on consumers that tried to file a return but couldn't to challenge any charges.

"HMRC might argue that people should not leave it so late to file their returns. But that misses the point," said the group.

"There is a statutory deadline, and if people do what they are supposed to do on or before that deadline, they have complied with the law.

"HMRC should make it as easy as possible to assist those who comply with their tax obligations and whether they do so well before or just before the deadline is neither here nor there."

Consumers have been told to challenge charges on the grounds they had an excuse for late filing.

Said the LITRG: "We want HMRC to recognise genuine cases as having a reasonable excuse, and to remit the penalty."

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