Have you received a scary letter from HMRC lately? Perhaps all HMRC letters are scary, but this latest nudge-letter really takes the biscuit.
In it HMRC says the taxpayer's effective rate of income tax is lower than the average for taxpayers with similar levels of income. It goes on to suggest that there could be something wrong with the self-assessment tax return for 2011/12 and the taxpayer should check what they submitted for that year. Penalties and interest are mentioned, which would worry anyone - even those with nothing to hide.
Bear in mind the period in which the 2011/12 tax return can be investigated closed for most taxpayers on 31st January 2014. This means HMRC can't open an enquiry into your tax return for that year unless it discovers new information which was previously not disclosed.
HMRC sent these letters as part of a pilot to nudge non-compliant taxpayers into paying the right amount of tax. However, in this case HMRC made no attempt to screen out those taxpayers who have good reasons for paying a low proportion of their income in tax - for example because of a loss claim, gift aid donation, or pension contribution. HMRC did not read the disclosures on the tax return before pressing the send button.
If you receive a scary letter from HMRC, call us immediately. It may be another "test" by HMRC trying to squeeze more tax and penalties out of innocent taxpayers, but it could be more serious.
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