If you were unfortunate enough to make a mistake on your tax return, it is becoming increasingly likely that HMRC will say that you have acted deliberately rather than by mistake, according to the latest penalty figures to be released. The figures mean that more higher penalties are being dealt out than ever before to those whose returns are deemed to be inaccurate.
The news comes as accountants say that they have expected a ‘hardening’ of attitudes at HMRC for some time. The suspicion is that HMRC workers could be pushing more cases of innocent errors into the ‘deliberate’ category in order to bring in more fines.
Telegraph money has seen some statistics which appear to prove this. In the tax year 2012/13, penalties were issued to over 5000 taxpayers over ‘deliberate’ actions, such as understating their income. In the tax year 2013/14, this amount rose to an astonishing 15,000. The proportion of total penalties issued for deliberate behaviour has rose to 16 per cent from 9 per cent.
Mike Down, a tax investigations expert obtained the data under a Freedom of Information Act Request. Following the disclosure of them, he said:
“Clearly, deliberately evading tax is a serious matter and HMRC is right to try and tackle it. By seeking more deliberate penalties, taxpayers are being hit harder and greater numbers of people are being put at risk of being named and shamed.”
These penalties are applied using a scale which takes into account the reason for the inaccuracies. They vary from innocent error to ‘failure to take reasonable care’, before going up to a scale where the taxpayer has deliberately provided the wrong information.