Accountants at ‘breaking point’ ahead of HMRC deadline

ACCA has now lobbied HMRC to reassess the 31 January date, claiming that accountants are ‘dismayed’ at their refusal to extend the deadline

Accountants are reportedly “dismayed” that HMRC is refusing to extend the 31 January deadline for self-assessment tax returns, with ACCA warning that the deadline could lead to millions of businesses facing fines totalling £250m.

The group has lobbied HMRC to reassess the date, after claiming that both accountants and SMEs are “at breaking point” ahead of the current deadline. It claims that HMRC insists the £100 fines will still be issued, and that an ordinary appeals process will be followed.

In a recent letter to HMRC, ACCA outlines statistical results of a survey of accountants representing 14,000 clients, which found that 22.2% of clients were expected to miss the filing deadline, with ACCA estimating that 2.5 million entrepreneurs could face penalties. 

Glenn Collins, head of technical advisory and policy, wrote to HMRC, stating: “Given the fact that we now have a further national lockdown, the results from our latest survey post the lockdown announcement, the increased need for individuals to isolate, and the worsening response times to queries raised with HMRC, we would urge HMRC to reconsider and extend the deadline until the end of the tax year in order to provide relief for struggling businesses.” 

Other ACCA members have highlighted several areas where the pandemic has “intensified familiar filing deadline difficulties”, as well as introducing new ones. 

Richard Halsey, of Halsey and Co in Cheam, Surrey, said: ‘“We now have to spend on average three days trying to reach HMRC on webchat just to make contact as our letters and calls go unanswered.  

“That is one of the main reasons we are behind in filing – my staff are simply having to spend disproportionate amounts of time dealing with HMRC issues and assisting with the various government Covid schemes.”

An unnamed member added: “We had made resource plans for the extra self-assessment work to be done in January but following the announcement of the lockdown it will now be very difficult to meet the tax return deadline for all clients along with the increased workload for furlough claims etc.

“We have a number of staff that will need to deal with childcare as a consequence of schools being closed, so we have fewer resources available for January than planned.”

Damian Thomas, of DJ Thomas & Co accountants, of Gloucester, said: “Given the new lockdown measures, I will be unable to collect the necessary information from certain elderly clients that need my assistance at their homes.” 

In addition, ACCA warned that these increased pressures follow an “unprecedented” year for accountants, who have had to support clients with a wide range of new measures, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

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