The major accountancy bodies have lobbied HMRC to extend the 2019-20, SA filing deadline. Whilst seeming to have sympathy for small businesses and tax payers that have found it difficult this year to keep up-to-date with their tax affairs, HMRC are unwilling – at this stage – to offer a blanket extension to the filing deadline at the end of this month.
What they are contemplating is a more sympathetic response to appeals from tax payers who have suffered due to lock-down or other aspects of the COVID outbreak.
HMRC are apparently weighing up the possibility that advisers could make multiple appeals for groups of affected clients to simplify and speed up the appeals process. But would it not be easier to extend the filing deadline this year?
Meanwhile practitioners – recognising the difficulties COVID disruption has created – are battling on, attempting to complete and file returns before the end of the month.
It is hard to believe that HMRC are not able to respond in a more sympathetic fashion to this issue. In a COVID free world, it is perfectly acceptable that firms lobby hard to get their clients compliant; but pestering clients who have COVID in their family or whose businesses are at the point of collapse is another matter.
This year, it is likely that there will be far more unfiled SA returns than in previous years. Perhaps common-sense will prevail. HMRC may not be willing to endorse a blanket extension of the 31 January deadline, but they could cancel the initial, automatic £100 fine for 2019-20. This or a similar option would be far more effective than offering professionals a facility to appeal on behalf of multiple clients in one process.
Will HMRC move the filing finishing line? At this late hour, it would appear to be unlikely.