Tax 

Calls for simpler tax returns

Calls for simpler tax returns

Members of the Association of Accounting Technicians have urged HMRC to simplify the amendment process for tax returns.

A survey of the association’s members who run their own practices found two thirds (67.5 per cent) were in favour of a single amendment process. 

Phil Hall, head of public affairs and public policy at the AAT, said: "AAT members’ views on this issue are quite clearly in favour of a single amendment process. 

"Whilst AAT recognises there will be significant challenges to achieving this - given that tax returns for payroll, VAT, individuals and businesses are very different - the savings that are likely to be realised, not least due to a knock-on reduction in HMRC resources, suggest that this is an ambition worth pursuing."

The recommendations were part of the AAT’s response to HMRC’s ‘Amendments to tax returns’ call for evidence which closed on February 6, 2019. 

There are currently several methods of making amendments to tax returns, which vary according to tax, value, accounting period and turnover.

The government stated it recognised that tax records will increasingly be held and submitted digitally, and that there was an opportunity to modernise the amendments process and create a better taxpayer experience.

In its response, the AAT also highlighted the inequality in the way HMRC can pursue taxpayers long after the time periods that taxpayers could reasonable make a claim against them. 

Tax returns can be amended within 12 months of the normal January 31 filing deadline.

After this taxpayers can make a claim for overpayment relief up to four years from the end of the relevant tax year. After 4 years, the figures become final.

The AAT’s submission stated: "Amendments can be a two-way process, are sometimes in the taxpayer’s favour and sometimes in HMRC’s favour. 

"A consistent, equitable regime which treats both parties the same therefore seems to be the very least that should be expected, not least to comply with the HMRC Charter."

Scott Gallacher, chartered financial planner at Rowley Turton, said: "Even for a professional financial adviser, the current tax system is overly complicated. Consequently, I support any attempt, such as the AAT’s, to simplify any element of it."

The survey also revealed that following an initial online confirmation, AAT members were waiting an average of 23 days for a response from HMRC, which members said could often cause "considerable inconvenience". 

When the call for evidence was launched in November 2018, the government said it "recognises that tax records will increasingly be held and submitted digitally, and that with the HM Revenue and Customs digital agenda there is an opportunity to modernise the amendments process and create a better taxpayer experience".