Late Appeal Against Tax Penalties Rejected

It is incumbent on taxpayers to make sure they fully comply with their obligations to file returns and pay any tax due. The point was illustrated by a recent case in which a taxpayer whose return had not been received by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) failed to persuade the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) that he should be permitted to appeal against the resulting penalties.

On the evening of 31 January 2014, the man had completed his 2012/13 Income Tax return on HMRC's website. Shortly afterwards he went to Cyprus, and did not return to the UK until 2017. In early 2022, he noticed that his tax debt had escalated and became aware that penalties had been charged for the 2012/13 tax year. He spoke to HMRC in May 2022 and was told that he had not filed a return for that year.

The man sought the FTT's permission to appeal against the penalties out of time. He claimed that he had submitted the return on time and it had been lost in HMRC's system. He pointed out that he had paid the tax due at the same time, and that he had fully engaged with HMRC to rectify the position after discovering that the return had not been submitted.

It was acknowledged that there had been multiple crashes of HMRC's website on the evening of 31 January 2014. However, the FTT noted that, had the return been submitted successfully, an online receipt would have been generated. Having been aware of the problems with HMRC's website and not having received a receipt, the man should have realised it was likely that the return had not been successfully submitted and checked the position. The FTT also observed that the penalty notices had been sent to his UK address and would have been waiting for him on his return from Cyprus in 2017. They would also have been visible on his online records. The FTT refused permission to appeal against the penalties and concluded that, even had it given permission, it would have dismissed the appeal in any case.