Electronic Notices from HMRC

A recent Tribunal loss is likely to bring changes to how electronic notices from HMRC are sent. This probably means that taxpayers behaviours will need to change too!

HMRC recently lost a Tribunal case as it was unable to prove that a penalty notice had been served to a taxpayer in a way that a Judge deemed to be acceptable. Though it’s clear that the taxpayer signed up to receive notifications through her secure mailbox, it wasn’t clear that she also signed up to receive penalty notifications on this way too. She therefore successfully appealed against the £1,200 penalties levied, claiming that she hadn’t been made aware of them. HMRC could only prove that they’d sent messages to the taxpayer saying ‘you have a new message from HMRC’.

It’s at this point that it’s likely that things will have to change, for HMRC and for taxpayers:

  • HMRC may decide to tighten up it’s messaging. This should make it clearer that there’s more than a bland notification in the mailbox, encouraging taxpayers to open and read them!
  • However, HMRC may just change their terms and conditions to warn that penalties mayo be sent this way. This would make it no clearer for taxpayers that the bland messages may relate to penalties.

This is where taxpayers need to be sure that they amend their behaviours around electronic notices from HMRC:

  1. If you have a secure mailbox with HMRC, make sure you read any notifications carefully.
  2. Open the mailbox and check every message received; in this case the subject lines were extremely vague so don’t assume that anything important will be clearly marked.
  3. Don’t assume that because the taxpayer in this case was successful in their appeal anyone else will be too. These cases aren’t governed by precedent, so the outcome of a similar case could be entirely different.
  4. Make sure you open your secure mailbox from your usual browser, NOT by following a link in an email from HMRC, in case it is actually a phishing email.

You can see the original article here.

If you’re concerned with any aspect of a communication from, or purporting to be from, HMRC, please get in touch. We’re here to help our clients with all aspects of their relationship with HMRC, which would also be covered by our Fee Protection scheme.

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