HMRC have publicly said that 653 people have incorrectly received letters ordering each person to pay a penalty of £100.
Initially, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs released a statement to the BBC1 strongly denying the blunder. The statement said:
“Any assertion we have sent early penalty notices to customers doing their returns online is false.”
However, they’ve now backtracked and issued an apology. On Monday a HMRC spokesperson said:
“Due to human error in processing some online trust returns a small number of trustees or agents have been inadvertently issued with late filing penalties.”
They’ve stated it’s down to human error for the problem. 653 people incorrectly being sent letters seems like a lot of people for human error.
However, the organization is responsible for the collection of taxes from tens of millions of Brits, the amount of individuals affected represents a microscopic percentage of people HMRC has on its system. Not quite on the scale of the blunder in 2003 which resulted in over-payments of £2 billion!2
How to protect yourself against HMRC errors
Given that errors have happened in the past and continue to happen it’s important to take steps to look after yourself when it comes to your tax affairs.
As someone who has been self-employed for over 10 years I always dread completing my annual tax return. Mainly because of a history of bad experiences with the clunky HMRC website of the past and a fear of errors. Not only a fear of errors on my part, which they might unfairly punish me for, but also errors on their side. Although this particular error has only affected 653 people it’s still reason to take precaution as it shows errors continue to happen.
Whenever you complete your self-assessment forms online always take a screenshot after submission. Store it somewhere safe. If you complete your tax return early and an issue crops up many months later it can slip your mind whether you submitted your tax return or not. The screenshot gives you the ability to immediately see when you last submitted a return. Of course, you can also still login to your HMRC account and see your history. But it’s possible that system could have an error at any time, so why not have a screenshot to be sure.
In the event of any letters from HMRC always contact them immediately if you believe there’s an error. Flag it up immediately. If they don’t provide the support you should also complain. The Gov.uk3 website has a list of all the contact details you would need.
Errors in the future may affect many more people, take precaution each time you approach your tax affairs to be safe.