HMRC will not be charging penalties for late filing of SA returns on 1 or 2 of February 2012 because of strike action.

HMRC's call center workers are striking on the 31st January. This means that some taxpayers will be unable to contact helplines to resolve last minute problems and so may not be in a position to meet their SA online filing deadline of midnight on 31 January 2012.

A new penalty system applies for SA this year, but rather than penalise everyone who is late filing and wait for them to then appeal that they have a reasonable excuse a decision seems to have been made to not charge penalties for the 1st and 2nd of February.

In a press release HMRC says:

"To make sure our customers are not disadvantaged if they cannot get through to HMRC's call centres on 31 January, we will not impose any late filing penalties for people who file their Self Assessment returns on 1 and 2 February."

"The SA deadline remains midnight on 31 January. But HMRC will treat all returns that come in by midnight on 2 February as though they were submitted by 31 January. No customer will have to pay interest on payments due on 31 January that are paid on 1 or 2 February."

"Acting Director General Personal Tax, Stephen Banyard, said: “We’ve always been very clear that we want the returns – not the penalties. For that reason, we don’t want anyone who can’t get through for help and advice on 31 January to be disadvantaged in any way.”

The BBC also quotes David Gauke, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: "This strike could have caused thousands of people to incur fines, so I am pleased that HMRC has taken this commonsense approach.

"The government does not want anyone trying to file their tax return on time to be unfairly penalised because they were unable to get through for help and advice on the 31st."

In passing..

It was expected that there would be an unprecedented number of late filing penalties issued this year - and it has been questioned whether the Tribunals would be able deal with an extra wave of appeals against those penalties. Perhaps the strike on the 31st is quite convenient for all as it will allow the new penalty system to be introduced in a very fair way.